After surviving nearly two and a half months of regular season basketball, 18 schools in The Augusta Chronicle's coverage area have qualified for the state tournament that begins Friday and Saturday night at a number of sites around the state.
Each team needs to win its first round game to qualify for the state sectionals that run Feb. 25-27 at several different sites around the state.
This season also marks the first time that the Georgia High School Association will allow four basketball teams in both boys and girls competition to qualify for state play.
Under the old system, only the region champion and the region runner-up qualified for the state tournament. But the state voted to allow four teams instead of two to make the postseason season this year. Instead of 16 teams in a classification making the postseason, the tournament has now expanded to 32 teams in each classification in both boys and girls play.
Therefore, to accommodate twice as many teams in the state tournament, a new round was added and will be played at different sites around the state this weekend.
In both boys and girls play, Region 1 plays at Region 3, Region 2 plays at Region 4, Region 6 is at Region 5 and Region 7 is at Region 8 in both boys and girls action. The game times were not set on Sunday.
In AAAA, the top-ranked Hephzibah Lady Rebels, who drew the top seed in Region 2-AAAA, will play Fayette County on Saturday night. In addition, the Butler boys will play top-seeded Carver Columbus on Saturday night as well.
But there were some questions as to where Hephzibah and Butler will play Saturday night. Since Region 2-AAAA was scheduled to play at Region 4-AAAA in the first round, the tournament was scheduled to be played at the No. 1 boys team on Friday and Saturday. Carver Columbus defeated Griffin on Saturday night for the Region 4-AAAA title and the right to host the tournament.
However, there were some concerns that Carver's gym was not big enough to accommodate the 1,800 fans mandated by the GHSA to host a first-round tournament, so officials had discussed playing the tournament at Griffin. But clarification of information was not available late Sunday night.
Richmond Academy will host a first round tournament this weekend, matching Region 1-AAA against Region 3-AAA. On Friday, Region 1-AAA boys champ Dougherty will play Dublin while the Cairo boys will meet top-seeded Statesboro. In girls play, Cairo battles Burke County and Monroe meets Dublin on Friday.
Then on Saturday, Monroe plays Thomson and Thomas County Central meets Josey in boys action while Laney plays Westover and Crisp County meets Thomson on Saturday night.
In AA at Greene-Taliaferro, the top-ranked Mitchell Baker boys play Swainsboro while Albany's boys play Greene-Taliaferro on Friday. On Saturday, Hancock Central's boys play Randolph-Clay.
In AA girls action, Sumter County meets Washington County on Friday night while Swainsboro tangles with Randolph-Clay and Hancock Central plays Thomasville on Saturday.
In Class A at Greater Atlanta Christian, Warren County's boys meet Providence on Friday and Warren's girls play Towns County also on Friday. On Saturday, Washington-Wilkes girls play Buford.
Tim Morse covers high school sports for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3612.