What is usually one of the busiest weeks of the high school athletics year will be much quieter in 2021.
Right around this time basketball teams are gearing up for their respective region tournaments, sometimes netting programs a three-game week in their quests to cut down the net. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused for a major change though, as two schools’ regions have opted to forego region tournaments and seed for the state playoffs based on region records instead. That decision has given three local teams — the Baldwin boys, Baldwin girls and GMC Prep girls — much easier routes to region titles than if they had to fight through a bracket. GISA Region 4-AAA, of which John Milledge Academy is a member, will move forward with its region tournament this week.
The GHSA Region 4-4A athletic directors met Thursday to finalize seeding. It was decided that the Baldwin Braves and Bravettes are both region champs this season as they sport perfect records both overall and against region competition. The BHS girls last won a region title two years ago while the boys did so in both 2017 and 2018. Finishing on top means a No. 1 seed for both teams entering the Class 4A state playoffs, which comes with home-court advantage through at least the first two rounds. Baldwin’s first round matchups have already been set as the Braves and Bravettes will host Bainbridge High School, whose teams finished fourth in Region 1, on Feb. 23. The BHS squads will have to put their perfect records behind them, because it will be win or go home from this point on. Start times for the opening round are 6 p.m. for the girls with the boys to follow.
The GMC Prep girls basketball team was scheduled to play ACE Charter Monday night, but win or lose the Lady Dogs already had the Region 7-A Public championship locked up. Region athletic directors voted to use this week to make up missed games from the regular season rather than hold the tournament. It’s the first such region title for the GMC girls’ program in head coach Shawn Dennis’ eight years at the helm, and may be the first in school history. The team also made some history last year when it advanced all the way to the Elite Eight, but now the girls are looking to push further. Their first-round opponent has yet to be determined, but they will open the postseason at home either Feb. 23 or 24. The GMC boys, whose roster was depleted due to players transferring out, will finish out the regular season this week, but are too far behind in the region standings to earn a state playoff berth.
John Milledge Academy’s region will proceed as normal as the GISA Region 4-AAA tournament will be held inside the school’s Trojan Center this week. Both the Trojans and Lady Trojans enter as the top seeds with their perfect region records. They will take the court Wednesday against the winners of the boys and girls play-in games. Wins there would move the JMA teams to the region championships, which are scheduled for Friday night. Consolation games for third and fourth will be played earlier Friday. The GISA is doing things differently this year, as region tournament finishes will not be used to determine state playoff seeding. That is being done through the MaxPreps power rating system. Both John Milledge teams stood at second in AAA as of Monday.