Harlem boys and girls basketball coach Kim Chambers had plenty to smile about after Wednesday morning's region meeting at Butler.
Both his teams avoided a region tournament play-in game and earned guaranteed bids to the 3-AAA Region Tournament hosted by Burke County.
"We're usually in the play-in game," Chambers said. "I'm happy that our boys and girls fought really hard, and we're in the region tournament."
In fact, the teams did more than just earn a spot in the tournament. They also have a good chance of advancing past the first round and beyond.
The Harlem boys, with a region record of 4-8, finished region play as the No. 4 seed. The Bulldogs will play South Effingham Monday at 4 p.m.
The Harlem girls took the region's No. 5 seed and will play Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against the loser of the Burke County/Jefferson County game.
"I would say we're the favored team in both the first round games," Chambers said. "We'd be the underdog in the second round, but anything can happen."
The Bulldogs finished the 2005-06 regular season with a 9-15 overall record. With region wins against Glenn Hills, Cross Creek and Thomson, the Harlem boys are right in the thick of the battle for the region tournament title. Chambers said the Bulldogs avoided the region tournament play-in game for the first time since 2002.
"We were down a little at the beginning of the year then all of the sudden we got hot," Chambers said, referencing the team's wins in 4 out of 5 contests in an 11-day period in January. "We beat Cross Creek and Thomson, then A.J. (Miller) made a last second shot to beat Glenn Hills."
The girl's position is better than last season when the Lady Bulldogs were forced to the play-in game to earn at spot in the region tournament. This year, the Harlem girls are in the tournament but won't go in with the same momentum they had last season.
"Last year our girls peaked at the right time. This year we peaked early," Chambers said. "Last night (Tuesday) we played well and beat Jefferson, so I'm hoping that was the turnaround for us."
The top four teams in the Region 3-AAA Tournament will earn bids to the state tournament.
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