It's do-or-die time for Columbia County's high school basketball teams.
As the 2002-03 prep season hits the home stretch, the final games of January could prove pivotal for county squads.
There are four game dates remaining this month, but several county teams will receive some much needed rest.
The Evans Knights and Lady Knights have a night off next Tuesday, and return to the court with tough region road games at Stephenson on Jan. 31.
Lakeside's squads have an open date this Friday, and play a non-region game Saturday at North Augusta.
Harlem, meanwhile, gets a real break - the Bulldogs and Lady Dogs are off this Saturday and next Tuesday.
For all of the local teams, the goal is to finish off January with a flourish and build momentum for next month's region tournaments.
So far, the Greenbrier boys and the Lakeside girls have emerged as state-playoff contenders. The Wolfpack came into this week with a school-record 14 wins, and the Lady Panthers have matched that victory total.
The Lakeside boys got into the act last week, as the Panthers picked up their first Region 3-AAAA win at Cross Creek.
The Harlem Bulldogs also boosted their playoff hopes by pulling out as 69-68 win last week at Washington County. David Green led the Dogs with 26 points, Joey Shiver tacked on 14, and Kelvin Sturgis continued his solid play by hitting a pair of 3-point shots.
Harlem evened its region record at 3-3, and with a strong push the rest of the way, the Dogs could vie for a second-straight trip to the state tournament.
In the private school ranks, Augusta Prep's teams have tasted a dose of reality in 2003. After a hot start in November and December, the Cavaliers dropped three straight Region 4-AAA games this month to fall to 9-6 overall. The Lady Cavs fell to 1-2 in region play after a heartbreaking 47-46 loss last week to John Milledge Academy.
While Prep has come down to earth, the Augusta Christian boys seem set for take off. The Lions bounced back from a three-game, January losing streak with key region wins over John Milledge and Westminster.
(girls game times listed first)
Friday: Augusta Christian at George Walton Academy, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Cedar Grove at Evans, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Butler at Greenbrier, 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Augusta Prep at Westminster, 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Harlem at Westside, 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Saturday: Augusta Prep at LaGrange Academy, 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.; First Presbyterian Day School at Augusta Christian, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; Burke County at Evans, 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Lakeside at North Augusta, 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Westside at Greenbrier, 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
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