Model is ranked No. 1 in the state and the girls have won 24 straight games. But are they the Blue Devils the favorite going in the Class AA tournament, which begins Friday?
Model (27-1) went through the regular season with an unblemished subregion record and hasn’t lost a game since falling to Rome-area rival Darlington on Nov. 25. The Devils avenged that loss in the final of Rome News-Tribune Holiday Festival.
Model could be hurt by the lack of close games. The girls beat Pepperell by four points and survived to beat Calhoun 35-33 in the Region 7-AA championship game. They play solid defense (37 points per game) and score plenty of points (59 points per game). Carla Clemmons and Timia Reynolds is a talented one-two punch that any team would love to have.
Model opens at home against a 21-8 Union County team and would play the Jordan-Greater Atlanta Christian winner in the second round.
Here are four other teams to watch in the Class AA tournament:
Buford: The three-time defending state champions have had an unusual season and have shown great perseverance under some adverse circumstances. The No. 3-ranked Wolves won Region 6, perhaps the deepest league in the state, without losing a subregion game.
Coach Gene Durden’s team started the season without Tennessee signee Andraya Carter, who was rehabbing from off-season knee surgery. Carter was finally cleared to return in January, but is still not at full-strength.
To complicate matters, forward MacKenzie Darrah dislocated her hip in an unusual accident against Decatur. And post player Kristina Nelson has a shoulder that requires a major-league tape job for every game.
Fortunately the team has gotten great production from junior Kaela Davis, another Tennessee commit. Nelson has played through her difficulties and unheralded senior Emily Adams has provided plenty of big plays and big points down the stretch.
Buford (24-4) beat No. 6Lovett 45-39 in the region championship game and will open the tournament against Kendrick (17-10). A win would match the Wolves against the North Oconee-River Ridge winner.
Laney: The No. 2 Wildcats field one of the strongest offensive teams in the tournament. Laney is 26-1 and brings a 23-game winning streak into the state playoffs. The only loss came against Region 3-AAA champion Washington County on Nov. 26.
When it comes to scoring points, the Region 3 champs simply open the tap and lets the baskets comes; they poured out 33 in one period against arch-rival Josey to erase a lead. They get a ton of points off their pressing, aggressive defense, but have plenty of ability to step up and hit the 3-pointer or pound it inside. There isn’t much this bunch can’t do.
DeKoya Mack and Jermeka Gibson lead a deep team that normally has four or five players score in double figures, but that’s not difficult on a team that averages 73 points.
Laney was 29-2 a year ago and opens the tournament against Northeast Macon (18-9). The winner advances to play the Thomasville-Vidalia winner in the second round.
East Hall: The Region 8 champions have been tested by a very difficult subregion that includes Rabun County and Union County, and then defeated a streaking North Oconee team in the tournament final.
The No. 5-ranked Vikings (25-3) have gotten a consistently high level of play all season from Jasmine Jenkins and Morgan Jackson, who was the MVP in a pair of tournaments. Jenkins has signed with Vanderbilt and Jackson is headed to Georgia State.
East Hall has perhaps the most difficult road to get to the championship game. The Vikings open against Dade County (23-5), an excellent shooting team that spent most of the season in the rankings. The winner must then face the Lovett-Carver winner, with No. 1 Model potentially awaiting in the quarterfinals.
Brooks County: No one knows much about the Region 1 champions (21-6), who sailed through the league without a loss and overpowered Thomasville 74-56 in the league’s title game. But no one in AA has found a way to beat the Trojans.
The six Brooks losses have come against larger schools: two to Class AAAAA Valdosta, two to Class AAAAA Lowndes, one to Class AAAA Brunswick and one to Class AAAA Thomas County Central.
The unranked Trojans are led by senior Jasmine Mapp, an all-state player who has signed with Valdosta State. Matt is an outstanding offensive player who is comfortable attacking the basket or pulling up to shoot a 3-pointer. She is a quality floor leader who has earned a reputation for being a clutch player.
Brooks opens against Appling County (13-7), with the winner advancing to play the Screven County-Southwest Macon winner. There are no ranked teams lurking in the Brooks quarter of the draw.