The play-in games have been decided, and the Region 2-6A Tournament begins today at Brunswick Square Garden.
The second-seeded Brunswick girls tip off the tournament with a semifinal against No. 3 Bradwell Institute at 3:30 p.m. The Pirate and Tiger girls split their two regular season meetings — BHS winning the first 52-47; Bradwell triumphing 60-48 in the second game.
Brunswick’s girls enter the tournament on a bit of a roll after what was an uneven regular season that saw them alternate strong wins with hard to swallow losses. The Pirates won four straight contests, three against region foes, before dropping its regular-season finale on the road against Tift County.
If the Brunswick girls are to keep the momentum rolling to a tournament championship, they’ll need to hunker down defensively and make the most of their possessions on offense.
“We have to play a little bit better defense than we have been doing in the past,” said Brunswick girls head coach Maria Mangram. “And then also getting people to actually score baskets.
“Making the easier opportunities that we’re given and possession. Controlling the possessions, and having good possessions, are going to be helpful as well.”
On the other side of the girls bracket lies top seed Glynn Academy, which is looking for its third win of the season over No. 5 Richmond Hill. The game tips at 6:30 p.m.
In two meetings against the Wildcats, Red Terrors star Zoesha Smith has scored 37 points, pulled down 19 rebounds, and come up with five steals, but the key to a region title will be Glynn’s ability to remain true to the game plan that’s got them 22-4 on the season.
“For us, it’s just playing together, being disciplined,” said Glynn Academy girls head coach Sharnesha Smith. “I think being disciplined has been our take on the whole season. Us just being disciplined, staying true to what we do, and executing our game plan no matter who we’re facing. That’s kind of how we’re going in.”
In the boys’ bracket, Brunswick enters as the No. 1 seed, despite a bit of a rocky ending to the regular season region schedule saw the Pirates drop two straight against Region 2-6A opponents, and four consecutive overall, before securing the top spot with a win against Effingham.
The silver lining for the Pirates is the fact that the four losses were by a combined total of 15 points, and they bounced back with a big victory against the Tift County Blue Devils in the regular season finale.
If the Brunswick boys are to win their third straight region title, head coach Chris Turner needs his team to rebound, value possessions, and make its shots from the charity stripe.
“I think it’s going to come down to rebounding and the turnover battle,” Turner said. “Also, we’ve struggled from the free throw line, so we’re hoping to improve our free throw percentage.”
At 6-foot-8, standout freshman Joyful Hawkins will be difficult for any team to keep off the boards, and the Pirates may receive a boost as senior point guard Kelan Walker prepares to get some run after having the cast removed from his hand last weekend.
In the semifinal round, Brunswick must contend against a Glynn Academy team that handed the team its first region loss in Round 2 of the City Championship.
The fourth-seeded Red Terror boys have come together in the final weeks of the regular season, winning three straight in the region to salvage the season and sneak into the tournament with a win over Effingham in the play-in game Monday.
Back in the region tournament after missing it a year ago, and set to tip off at 8 p.m., Glynn needs to squeeze another strong defensive performance out of its team in order to advance.
“I just feel like if we can come out and just continue to play hard, and play with a lot of intensity on defense, and execute on the offensive end, I think everybody has a legitimate chance to win,” Haywood said. “I think, for us, execution and intensity are the two words I’ve been kind of preaching all week long.”