After earning a state playoff berth by beating Cross Creek in the first round of the Region 3-AAAA tournament, members of the Harlem High School girls team said they wanted to enter the Class AAAA tournament as the region's top seed.
The Bulldogs fell short of that goal, losing to Hephzibah 67-63 in the region final Feb. 21. But Harlem did enough to earn a home playoff game and its first playoff berth since the 1999-2000 season. The Bulldogs, the No. 2 seed from Region 3-AAAA, will play host to Mount Zion-Jonesboro (Region 4 third seed) on Friday.
Harlem had a shot at the region title, but the Rebels shot well from outside and at the free-throw line.
Harlem pulled to within two on Chancellor Martin's 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds remaining. But the Bulldogs didn't call timeout, and Hephzibah guard Tannasia Rhodes connected at the free-throw line with 1.5 seconds left.
The No. 3 Rebels swept the two higher-seeded teams, having beaten Butler in the semifinals on Friday. Harlem won both meetings between the teams during the regular season and was the tournament's top seed.
"That was our incentive -- to try to avoid getting beat three times by the same team," Lofton said. "We have grown immensely."
Harlem earned a trip to the final by beating Cross Creek, 54-20, and slipping past Glenn Hills, 48-42, in the semifinals.
Lakeside's girls almost ended the Rebels' title run from the start. The Panthers led their quarterfinal game by 11 at halftime, but the Rebels scored the first 13 points of the second half and did enough down the stretch to win.
The second-seeded Evans boys avenged a regular-season loss to Westside by beating the Patriots in the boys region quarterfinals. Jaleel Roberts blocked 10 shots and forward Tony Davis scored 24 points for the Knights.
Evans was eliminated by Cross Creek in the semifinals, losing 75-70 in overtime after the Razorbacks overcame a six-point deficit in the final minute of regulation.
Evans coach Kevin Kenny's team finished with the Region's No. 4 seed and will play at Jonesboro on Saturday in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
In the Region 2-AAAAA tournament, held at Newton High School, the Greenbrier boys earned a trip to the state playoffs when guard Bryan Andrews connected on a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Newton 52-50. The Wolfpack followed up the win with losses to Redan and Union Grove, but they earned the region's fourth seed and will open the Class AAAAA playoffs at Valdosta on Saturday.
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