WAYNESBORO, Ga. - When the Georgia High School Association began allowing four teams from each region to advance to the state basketball tournament two years ago, it improved the top seed's chances of advancing to Round 2.
Butler proved there is an exception.
The Bulldogs, who finished as the fourth seed from Region 3-AAAA, shot down Region 2-AAAA champion Peach County 64-63 in the first round Friday at Burke County High School.
Butler (21-8) advances to the Class AAAA south sectionals March 2 at the Albany Civic Center, where it will meet either Crisp County or Creekside at 8:30 p.m.
In other games Friday, Spencer's Lady Greenwave ended Thomson's season with a 51-36 victory, and the Glenn Hills Lady Spartans bombed Peach County 74-43. Statesboro played Upson-Lee in the boys late game.
Butler overcame a 15-point deficit to start the third quarter, forcing seven Peach County turnovers to cut the Trojans' lead to 47-45 heading into the final period.
Peach County pushed its lead to 51-46 with 6:50 left before the Bulldogs used a 6-0 run to grab their first lead with 5:47 remaining.
The Trojans didn't quit. Both teams traded baskets and the lead until Willie Green buried an 18-footer from the right wing with 31 seconds left to give the Bulldogs the lead for good at 61-60.
"As soon as I released it, I knew it was going in," said Green, who finished with 15 points. "I was wide open, and I just knew I could hit it."
After Green buried the basket, a Peach County turnover on the inbounds pass allowed the Bulldogs to seal the victory. Hayward Dock sank one of two free throws to make it 62-60 with nine seconds left.
The Trojans' chance to tie the game ended when Korvan Slaughter's jumper bounced off the rim and Antjuan Welch grabbed the rebound.
"I just told the kids all along that we're not going to play any teams better than Statesboro and Thomson," Butler coach Rob Johnson said. "We split with Statesboro and had two two-point games against them, and we played close with Thomson both times, so I knew we could compete with these guys if we could shoot well. We didn't even shoot that well, but we played good defense like we have all year, and that's what won it for us."
Glenn Hills (27-2) got off to a slow start against Peach County, but when the Lady Spartans got rid of their butterflies, they showed little mercy on Peach County.
For the second straight season, Glenn Hills is back in the state sectionals, where it will meet the Westlake-Crisp County winner at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Jones County High School.
"I thought we seemed too relaxed to start the game," Glenn Hills coach Bernard Bowman said. "But as the game got started, they showed more intensity."
Thomson's Lady Bulldogs (13-14) were eliminated in the first round for the second straight season as Spencer outscored them 15-4 in the second quarter and never trailed again.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.