Only one was on the money, but there still will be two for the show.
The Augusta Christian Schools boys' basketball team swept three games last week in Dublin, Ga. on the way to claiming a sixth straight Region 4-AAA championship.
The Lions beat Brentwood School 55-50 in the finals Friday night at Trinity Christian. AC now cruises into the Georgia Independent School Association Class AAA state playoffs this week.
The Harlem High School Bulldogs advanced to the Region 3-AAA championship game last week against home-standing Lucy C. Laney. The Dogs lost to the Wildcats 62-51 Saturday night, but Harlem still can savor its first trip to the state playoffs since the early 1970s.
In addition to its six-year region reign, Augusta Christian has won two state basketball titles since 1996, and the Lions will be one of the favorites to advance to the GISA Final Four In Milledgeville on March 1-2.
Harlem, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to challenge for a region crown this season. The Dogs already had secured a spot in the state playoffs with strong regular-season play, then advanced to the region title game with a 63-55 win over Cross Creek in Friday action at Laney.
"Before the championship game, I told each player how proud I was of them to win the Cross Creek game," Harlem coach Kim chambers said. "In the finals, I wanted to get every player in the game, so that 20 years from now they'll be able to tell their children that they played for a region championship."
In the finals, Laney raced to a 25-9 lead. From there, Harlem shook off the jitters, but the slow start sealed the Dogs' fate.
"All year we've faced new challenges. We haven't been in this situation before, so it took us a couple of minutes to settle down," Kim Chambers said. "Unfortunately, during that time we were turning the ball over at the top of the key or the perimeter area, which led to fast break points for them."
Harlem also was plagued by foul problems - Domonique Brown, Tim Camp and Kevin Ward all fouled out against Laney, while senior guard David Green finished with four fouls.
Augusta Christian, on the other hand, was dishing out all of the punishment in Dublin.
AC opened the Region 4-AAA tournament Wednesday with a 79-40 blowout of Trinity Christian. On Thursday, the Lions added a 59-45 victory over John Milledge Academy, with junior Jordan Belcher scoring 26 points to lead AC to the championship game on Friday.
Belcher had the hot hand again in the finals. He drained five 3-point goals and tallied 26 points to pace the Lions past No. 1 seed Brentwood.
Augusta Christian (22-4 record) now advances to the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA state playoffs. AC begins its drive for a state title on Thursday with a first-round game against Tiftarea. Tip-off time is 8:30 p.m. at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon.
Harlem (13-11) faces a stern test in its first-round Class AAA playoff game. The Bulldogs face Liberty County at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Effingham County High School.
Liberty County (24-3 record) ruled Region 2-AAA for much of the season, but the Panthers were upset in their region tournament by Tattnall County. Liberty lost 69-68 on a buzzer beater, and were relegated to the No. 3 seed from Region 2-AAA.
"We've played well on the road this season, and we can play with Liberty County. We're very confident," Coach Chambers said.
Should the Dogs advance, Harlem would get to compete in front of the home crowd, as the Class AAA state playoffs will continue next week at the Augusta State University Athletic Complex.
"If we win our first-round game, we'll get to play the next round at the Augusta State," Chambers said. "I'm not saying that's our ultimate goal, but that's one of our goals."
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