This weekend will bookend the 2016-17 regular season and the start of Class AAAA's region tournaments will be set for what will hopefully be a celebratory post-Super Bowl LI Monday. With all the regular season's storylines coming to an end, the intensity and excitement of the postseason cranking up. Today's blog features an in-depth conversation with hoops guru Kyle Sandy on some of Class AAAA's top title contenders along with the overall landscape of the classification as we approach the big dance.
Links to all 56 boys region tournaments and all 56 girls region tournaments will be available on Monday HERE.
Q: Upson-Lee Has a chance to close out the regular season 25-0 tonight against a solid Perry team. What do you expect the mood and overall mindset to be for this hungry Knights team?
A: “I think they are going to be focused. There are talks that coach Darrell Lockhart is going to rest his players [for the Region Tournament] which hopefully that does not come to fruition because there is a tournament director from Florida that is supposed to be in attendance and he wants to see Upson-Lee at full strength to see if they are good enough to play in his big tournament. So I think they will be focused either way. They beat Perry in a close game the first time they played and the most important thing for Upson-Lee is that they lost in the first-round of the state playoffs last year, so they are more focused on the postseasons. Finishing the regular season undefeated would be nice, but it is not imperative.”
Q: Do you expect to see Perry and Upson-Lee playing again this next week for the Region 2 championship?
A: “I would say yes. Perry has the most balance outside of Upson-Lee. There are some other talented teams in that region such as Mary Persons with Cam Holden, but does not have enough help around him for Mary Persons to really challenge and unseat Upson-Lee in this region championship.”
Q: Out in Augusta, Richmond Academy has put together a solid 20-4 record this season. Would you choose the Musketeers or take the field, which includes Thomson, Burke County and Baldwin, in the region tournament?
A: “Richmond Academy lost to Baldwin (52-31) when they played on Jan. 20th, but they are the best team in the region. Thomson still remains dangerous. They opened in the top 10 very high to begin the season but have been a disappointment. However, if Thomson can make and sustain a significant stride, they can give Richmond Academy a run for their money.”
Q: Going back to that 52-31 loss Richmond Academy suffered at Baldwin last month, what has the reaction been and how have the Musketeers tried to put that in the rear-view mirror as we enter crunch time?
A: “I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I know Buck Harris is in his second year as head coach at Baldwin after leading Laney to numerous deep state playoff runs so he has that team up and running. They are playing very well this season and they are very dangerous in addition to a team more than capable of gaining momentum and making a run to the region title.”
Q: When you look across all of the classifications, what about Class AAAA stands apart from the rest and how would you characterize it?
A: “Class AAAA stands apart as being a ‘old school’ classification. There are not a ton of transfers in the classification and there are not a tone of blue chip prospects in the classification. It really is just who wants it the most and who is the most consistent. Whoever can be those two things has the best shot at winning the state title this year.”
Q: What coach do you think has done the most with what he has in Class AAAA this season?
A: “Mike Tobin at Cartersville in Region 5 has done a good job using his football players mixed in with his basketball players primarily Jaylon Pugh who is their top scorer. They have been very good out of Region 5 and will try to redeem themselves after a first round blowout defeat last year after winning the region.”