steve.carter@gaflnews.com



CHULA -- After completing their regular season schedules last week, the Tiftarea Academy basketball teams will begin play this week in the Region 3-AA basketball tournament in Damascus.

Coach Gina Mitchell's Lady Panthers, the third seed, will begin play at 5:30 p.m. today against Crisp Academy.

The Panthers will open up against Westwood tomorrow at 4 p.m. Coach Todd Stanfill's team will enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed.

Without playing a game, the Lady Panthers have already suffered one postseason loss.

Tiftarea (17-5) finished the year tied with Terrell Academy for second place in the region. To break the tie, a coin toss was held. Terrell won the toss and the second seed.

"Losing that toss was devastating to us. I really wanted the number-two seed," Mitchell said.

Even with the third seed, the Tiftarea coach likes her team's chances against Crisp.

"If we play like we are capable of, I feel like we should not have any problems. I am just hoping we can play our type of ball," said Mitchell.

"I just hope we can rebound the ball well and keep our turnovers to a minimum."

Lindsey Shiver and Darby Pilkinton have been Tiftarea's leading scorers for most of the season.

Shiver will enter the tournament on a high note. The junior scored 28 points last week in a win over Brookwood. That gives her 1,021 points in her career at the school.

On the boys side of the bracket, the Panthers will go in with a 13-7 overall record. Two of those victories came over their first round opponent.

"We beat them in overtime at their place and came back here and beat them by 20," said Stanfill.

Even with that success, the coach added his team will not be able to enter tomorrow's game thinking a third win is a lock.

"If we play well, we should be all right. But, we will have to give a good effort or they will beat us," said Stanfill.

The coach is entering the tournament optimistic.

"At tournament time, anything can happen. For us to be successful, we will have to play well as a team and we have accomplished that this season," Stanfill stated.

About his optimism, the coach continued, "right now we really don't have any one person leading us. We have had a different person each night. We will need to keep having that during the tournament."

Besides Tiftarea Academy, other area schools are also preparing for league tournaments this week.

The Irwin County Indians and Lady Indians will take part in the Region 2-AA tournament this weekend at Pierce County.

Coach Stan Mix's Lady Indians will go in as the No. 3 seed.

In its first round matchup, Irwin will play the winner of the Pierce-Bacon matchup Thursday. Pierce and Bacon are having a play-in game tonight at Charlton County.

Finishing as the second seed behind Pierce County, coach Chuck Folker's Indians have all ready earned a state playoff spot. It will be Irwin's third trip in a row to the state playoffs.

The Indians will open tournament play in the semifinals Friday against the winner of Thursday's Bacon-Berrien/Brooks contest. Berrien and Brooks are playing a play-in game tonight at Charlton.

The tournament's number one seeds will be the Cook High Lady Hornets and the Pierce County Bears.



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