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In 2010, the Westlake High Lions had Mr. Georgia Basketball, Marcus Thornton, who is now at the University of Georgia. Last season, Thornton and the Lions went all the way to the state championship game before losing to Milton.

While Thornton is helping Georgia try to qualify for the NCAA tournament this season, the Lions are not devoid of talent.

It is a fact that Eric Holland, the head coach of the Tift County Blue Devils, is well aware of as his team prepares to host Westlake this evening in the second round of the state Class AAAAA boys basketball playoffs.

“They have a lot of talent,” said Holland.

“Their leader is a 6-foot-6 junior guard (Jeremy Postell) that we will have to figure out a way to account for. They also have a 5-foot-10 sophomore point guard that is really good (Tony Bagtas).”

Westlake is 17-9 on the year, but most of their losses came in league play. Of their nine losses, the only one that did not come against a team from Region 2-AAAAA was a 58-57 loss to First Coast (Fla.) High.

So even though Westlake entered the state tournament as a No. 3 seed, their strength can’t be questioned. That is because Region 2 still has all four teams that qualified for the state tournament still alive.

Holland said his team was ready for what should be a tremendous challenge.

“We have practiced well this week. We have been focused on what we need to do, and alert on what we need to learn in practice,” Holland said.

It will be the second year in a row Tift has hosted a Region 2 team in the second round. Last season, Stephenson eliminated Tift, 60-53, at the Tift County High Arena.

“We are very excited about getting a chance to redeem ourselves,” said Holland. “This is a very big game for us and we are focused on doing our best.”

Game time is set for 6 p.m. The winner will face the Stephenson-Savannah winner in the third round at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Fort Valley State University.

“We want everyone out here around 5:30 today. We want everyone fired up and ready to cheer us on,” said Holland.

 

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