February Madness, Step 1 – Area Tournaments
Many didn’t think the AHSAA would be able to get through basketball season, yet, here we are. This week, Alabama high schools will begin participating in their respective area tournaments, beginning the madness of the postseason. Over the next month, we’ll look at each step of the AHSAA playoffs, breaking down matchups and making predictions.
Up first, I’ll be looking at the most intriguing area tournaments featuring teams from the Birmingham metropolitan area. Now, you might be asking yourself, what is an ‘area tournament’? To put it simply, these ‘area tournaments’ are conference tournaments, and these few games determine what teams move on to the Sub-regional or Regional rounds of their respective classifications.
Most areas consist of four teams, while some have five or three teams. The top-two seeds in each tournament will host the semi-final round of their respective tournaments, and the highest-remaining seed will host the championship round. The teams that make it to the championship round become automatic-qualifiers for sub-regionals (1A-6A) or regional tournaments (7A). Classes 1A-6A will have a sub-regional Round of 32, hosted by area champions, competing against the corresponding runner-up. Class 7A only has 32 schools, so the remaining 16 will go straight to the Regional Tournaments, with the Sweet 16 being played at host schools. I’ll break those matchups down next week when those tournaments are set.
NOTE: All semi-finals are on Wednesday, Feb. 10 unless otherwise noted. All Championships are on Saturday, Feb. 13, unless otherwise noted. Home team denoted in italics.
Semi-Final: #1 Pleasant Grove vs #4 Fairfield; #2 Wenonah vs #3 John Carroll. Area 9 is pretty uneven, as only Pleasant Grove is ranked in the top-10 in the ASWA poll for class 5A. Pleasant Grove is a talented team, lead by seniors Chris Lewis and Zyquez Perryman. The Spartans are very talented, and I imagine will take down Fairfield without a problem. Similarly, Wenonah is just so talented. Factor in the home-court advantage for the Dragons, and I think Wenonah takes the win. My Championship: Pleasant Grove over Wenonah.
Semi-Final: #1 Ramsay vs #4 Leeds; #2 Parker vs #3 Carver. Ramsay is so good this year. The Rams are 21-7, with most of those losses coming against 6A and 7A teams, in close battles. Ramsay won’t struggle with Leeds on Wednesday. Parker sits at 11-8, and have quietly been very good. I imagine that Parker handles Carver in a close one. My Championship: Ramsay over Parker.
Semi-Final: #1 Calera vs #4 Helena; #2 Pelham vs #3 Chilton County. I don’t like saying that teams are bad, but that’s really all that can be said about the Helena Huskies. Helena is 4-22 on the season, and took over 25 minutes to score 10 total points against (7A) Oak Mountain last time out, in a game that Helena lost 42-17. Calera, on the other hand, is very good. Calera scores a lot of points. Helena does not. Calera could win that semi-final by 50. Pelham has found their stride as of late, and should be able to take down Chilton County fairly easily. My championship: Calera over Pelham.
Semi-Final: #1 Mountain Brook vs #4 Briarwood; #2 Chelsea vs #3 Homewood. Most imagined the Mountain Brook Spartans wouldn’t struggle in 6A, and they haven’t. The Spartans haven’t lost in over a month, and sit at 23-6 right now. Briarwood won’t stand a chance against Mountain Brook. Chelsea and Homewood tied for second-place and had to flip a coin to see who’d host the game. Chelsea has the pieces to win, but they’ve only won five games this season. Last week, the Hornets hung around with (7A) Oak Mountain and Tuscaloosa County. Finally, I can see an upset really happening. Homewood just has the pieces to win, but they won’t make a deep run this year. My Championship: Mountain Brook over Homewood.
Semi-Final: #1 Hoover vs #4 Tuscaloosa County; #2 Oak Mountain vs #3 Thompson. This area was competitive all season long. Hoover and Oak Mountain tied for first at 4-2, while Thompson and Tuscaloosa County tied for third at 2-4. Hoover never strung together many wins in a row, but took two at the end to tie with Oak Mountain. Hoover is coming off an ugly loss to Spain Park on Friday night, so we’ll see if that affects the Bucs. The Wildcats started area play 2-0, but dropped 4 straight, prior to winning close games against decent 6A teams last week. Oak Mountain went the other way. The Eagles started 0-2, but the return of Will Shaver and Evan Smith led to the Eagles taking off down the stretch. Oak Mountain won their last 4 area games, including beating Thompson by a combine 41 points. Thompson didn’t win a single game away from home in area play, and they’ll have a tough test playing at Oak Mountain. My Championship: Oak Mountain over Hoover.
Semi-Final: #1 Vestavia Hills vs #4 Hewitt-Trussville; #2 Spain Park vs #3 Gadsden City. Vestavia Hills will absolutely dominate Hewitt. The Rebels are 24-3 and just don’t look like they’ll lose again. Lead by Win Miller, the Rebels have dominated just about every team they’ve played, and Hewitt will be no different. Spain Park should beat Gadsden City, but the Titans beat Vestavia by 21 points two weeks ago, so it’s not out of the question for Spain Park to lose, but it won’t happen. The Jags are so talented. Senior Cam Crawford has been dominant all season long. Combine that with great players like JR Lambert, Colin Turner, and Blake Floyd, I just can’t see the Jags dropping that game. My Championship: Vestavia Hills over Spain Park.
Full Disclosure: I am a student at Oak Mountain and work closely with the team. Area 5 could go to any of the four teams, but that is just my prediciton.
Let me know what you think. Feel free to join the conversation on Twitter by mentioning me @gforee16.