The biggest surprise in last week’s region championships came from Region 4, where Dutchtown emerged from the No. 4 seed, beat two state-ranked teams and captured the title.
The Bulldogs (14-14), who have won seen of their last nine games, open the playoffs at home on Friday against Morrow.
Dutchtown beat Union Grove in the play-in game, then beat No. 8 Eagle’s Landing 51-44 and shocked No. 5 Stockbridge 83-80 in the final. It was quite a turn of events: Stockbridge had beaten the Bulldogs by 19 points on Jan. 23 and by 58 points on Dec. 5.
“We had some injuries and had to deal with a lot of moving pieces,” Dutchtown coach Jamal Basit said. “We had a lot of different lineups and now we’ve got some chemistry. Things have calmed down.”
The team’s best season all year has been Cameron Bryant, a 6-6 sophomore who averages the balanced attack with 10.9 points. Dutchtown also got a boost from the arrival of 6-7 forward Dontay King, who moved in from South Carolina around the Christmas break. King had 38 points and 16 rebounds in the region championship games.
The Bulldogs were second in the region last year and advanced to the second round before being eliminated. This is the first time the program has gone to state in back-to-back seasons.
The Bulldogs did it without Basit, who missed the tournament due to some health issues. He will be back on the bench for the tournament.
There were a few other surprises during the region tournament:
Ranked teams don’t fare so well: None of the teams in the final regular-season rankings got bounced from the playoffs, but they didn’t produce an abundance of championships. Only five ranked boys teams won their region titles and only six girls teams won it all.
Starr’s Mill rolls in Region 3: The Panthers extended their winning streak to 10 games and won the Region 3 title, beating McIntosh in the final game. Drew Hudson (18 points, 10.4 rebounds) has led the Panthers, who have lost just one game in 2018.
Lithonia boys win Region 5: It hardly comes as a surprise, since the Bulldogs were ranked No. 6 in the state. But coach Wallace Corker’s team entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed and beat No. 4 Columbia and No. 7 Southwest DeKalb in the tournament. The semifinal win was especially satisfying for Corker, who was mentored by Columbia coach Phil McCrary.
Southwest DeKalb girls win Region 5: Looks like the king isn’t dead after all. The Panthers, who won the state championship two years ago and finished second last year, turned the tables on top-seeded Arabia Mountain and won the tournament. Southwest had lost the two regular-season meetings to the Rams, but coach Kathy Walton’s team continues to play some of the toughest defense around.
Lithia Springs girls shock Jackson in Region 6: The Lions entered as the No. 3 seed, but roared through the region tournament and beat Jackson 54-51 in the final. Jackson had won both regular-season meetings, one by 31 points, the rematch by only five. Coach David Mills’ young team will take a seven-game winning streak into the playoff opener against Chamblee.
Hiram boys beat Villa Rica in Region 7: The Hornets showed last month’s win over Villa Rica was not a fluke and beat the Wildcats 48-43 in the final, five days after losing to them in the last weekend of the regular season. Raphael Rogers scored 15 and Nathan Presnell scored 13 in the region championship game.
Warner Robins boys up streak to nine: The No. 1-ranked Demons have won nine straight going into the state tournament. Since its loss to Class AAAAAAA power Newton on King Day, Warner Robins has won nine games by an average of 37 points, the closest a 22-point win over Harris County in the Region 1 final.
Harris County girls streaking to playoffs: The No. 2-ranked Tigers (25-2) made it 17 straight wins with a 50-17 win over Bainbridge. Jessika Carter (20.8 points, 14.4 rebounds) and Taziha Fanning (15.3 points) lead Harris County, which opens the playoffs against South Effingham.