The Creekview boys will host their first-round game against Mays at 7 p.m., something coach Casey Gramling is excited about.
“We went into the season with different goals and that was definitely one of our goals, to host a state playoff game,” Gramling said. “It makes a big difference.”
Cherokee County schools are out this week for winter break, but Atlanta Public Schools are in session, which means the Mays players will be in class all day before taking the bus ride into Canton.
“Our boys are going to be comfortable being at home,” said Gramling, whose team traveled to Loganville last year for its first-round playoff game. “It can be hard to get off the bus and play. Hopefully, that will play to our advantage.”
Gramling said every game in the state tournament is tough, but if his players stick to their plan, they have a good opportunity to beat Mays and advance.
“We think we have a chance,” he said. “We have studied the film. They actually like to slow it down and play in the half-court. They don’t like to get up and down the court like most of the teams in that region. So, if we come down and execute well and shoot good, we have a good chance to win the game.”
The Cherokee boys and Etowah girls will both be on the road at Archer.
The night will begin with the Lady Eagles at 6 p.m., with the Warriors playing afterward.
Etowah girls coach Bob Westbrook said the double-header will certainly draw a big crowd for Archer, and he is hoping that Cherokee County will pull a big crowd as well.
“I think that certainly they will have a big crowd, and I think that maybe Cherokee County will, too,” Westbrook said. “I’ll tell you what, I’m glad Cherokee is playing behind us.”
Etowah was able to get in three practice sessions after winning Saturday’s Region 5AAAAAA consolation game against Wheeler. Westbrook said having time off from school was nice because the team was able have some extra time together.
“We were able to go over the things we needed to,” he said, “so it’s been nice not having to be in school.”
However, playing tonight means, should Etowah advance, it could have less time to prepare for a potential second-round game Friday.
“For this first game, it’s always nice to have some extra time to prepare,” Westbrook said. “I think that we have had some good days. Three good practice days and we will see what happens.”
Cherokee boys coach Roger Kvam said his team plans to get to Archer’s campus in Lawrenceville early and cheer on the Etowah girls.
“Hopefully, (Etowah) will do the same and stay late and cheer for us,” Kvam said. “It’s a long drive so, hopefully, some people from Cherokee County get out there.”
Kvam said his players have benefitted from the time off school, and it also eased some of his concerns.
“I’m always concerned they don’t get enough sleep, so this gives them a chance to sleep in a bit,” Kvam said of the time off school.
Archer is only a fourth-year program, but it has reached the playoffs in each of its three years of eligibility.
“I’ve seen them on tape and they play well,” Kvam said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us.”
As for River Ridge coach Matt Bohon, his team is just happy to be in the state playoffs for the first time — even if it means traveling to play the top-ranked team in Class AAAA.
The Knights will play at South Atlanta tonight at 7 p.m.
It’s a far cry for a River Ridge team that didn’t even qualify for its region tournament last season.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but we are excited,” Bohon said. “We have never been in the playoffs before, so we aren’t going to complain about who we are playing. They are good. No doubt about that.”
Bohon said that, without school, his team practiced earlier in the day, but other than that, it was business as usual for River Ridge.
“To get to the state playoffs, I’m very proud of them all and excited, especially for the seniors,” Bohon said.