Several basketball players will get their first taste of state playoff experience this weekend, while seniors will see their final opportunity at pursuing a state title.
Eight teams from Cherokee advanced to the playoffs, with both the boys and girls teams from Cherokee, Etowah, Sequoyah and Woodstock all playing in first-round games this weekend. The Cherokee boys and girls earned No. 1 seeds after winning the Region 4AAAAAAA championships and will be the only teams in the county playing at home in the first round.
The Cherokee girls (25-2) will host Newnan (11-16) at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by the Cherokee boys (23-4) facing Westlake (9-19).
The Cherokee girls advanced to the state semifinals last season and have beaten their opponents by an average score of 62-37 this season. The Lady Warriors have several seniors who will play in college, but it may be point guard Ashlyn Andrus, a first-team all-region selection, who will have the greatest impact for Cherokee as it hopes for another deep postseason run.
Along with Andrus, Sydne Watts was also named a first-team all-region player, while junior Kate Johnson was named a second-team selection.
The Cherokee boys should be riding high coming off the first region championship in program history, will be led by Taihland Owens and Elijah Tucker. Owens was named the region player of the year this past weekend, while Tucker was named a first-team all-region player.
Senior Zack Vickers and junior Bennett Ulm have also been key pieces for the Warriors, who are looking to win a first-round state playoff game for the second consecutive season.
The Woodstock girls (23-4) earned the No. 3 seed out of Region 4 and will travel to Smyrna to take on Campbell (20-7) at 6 p.m. Friday.
Woodstock has been led by sophomore point guard Bridget Utberg, a first-team all-region selection, while Campbell is led by the twin sisters Jameah and Jaleah Alston, who are at or near the top in all statistical categories for Campbell.
The Woodstock boys (13-14) beat Etowah to earn the No. 3 seed from Region 4AAAAAAA and will travel to Mableton to take on Pebblebrook (15-13) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Woodstock seniors Rakim Thompson and Ezekial Pettway each earned second-team all-region honors and will have to try to slow down Kaleb Washington, a 6-foot-7 Pebblebrook junior with offers from Arkansas, Georgia and Clemson among others.
The Etowah boys (17-8) earned the No. 4 seed and will travel to Marietta to face Wheeler (19-7) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Etowah girls (12-16) also earned the No. 4 seed out and will travel to Atlanta to take on Westlake (25-2) at 6 p.m. Friday.
Both Etowah teams will face uphill battles
The Wheeler boys are led by senior forward Sam Hines, a Denver signee, while Westlake senior center Lydia Freeman has signed to play at Georgia Southern. Westlake junior point guard Raven Johnson is the 13th-rated player in the country for the class of 2021, and sophomore Ta’Niya Latson leads the team at 16 points per game.
Both the Sequoyah boys and girls earned the No. 3 seed out of Region 6AAAAAA.
The girls (18-10) will travel to Sugar Hill to take on Lanier (17-10) at 5 p.m. Saturday. Freshman Elle Blatchford and junior A’ryn Jackson each earned second-team all-region honors and will look to lead Sequoyah past the first round for the second year in a row.
The Sequoyah boys (22-5) will play at Gainesville (12-14) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Chiefs will lean on the experience of the seniors to help lead the team to a second-round appearance for the second consecutive year. Jacksen Greco earned first-team all-region honors this past weekend, while Donovan Shipp was named to the all-region second team.