(Franklin, GA) — The Heard High varsity boys basketball team begins the region tournament tonight in Franklin in hopes of securing back-to-back wins and the school’s first region championship since 1960.
Since region titles and GHSA Class B state semi-final runs in both 1959 and 1960, the Heard County team has experienced a long title drought with the only two state playoff appearances coming in 2002 and 2003.
The Braves (20-4, 10-0 in Region 5-AA) will take on Temple in tonight’s semifinal (8:30 PM) after the Tigers defeated Jordan 73-49 Tuesday night at Callaway.
The team has defeated the Tigers (14-11, 4-6) twice this season as they did all five region foes, but head Coach Keith Simmons knows winning this tournament and finishing the region drill won’t come easy.
“There’s good and bad in playing everybody and beating everybody in the region two times already,” says Simmons.
“It’s hard to beat teams three times — everybody has seen each other and knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses so it all comes down to who is doing what they are supposed to do — the simple stuff — free throws, playing defense, boxing out, and making the shots you’re supposed to make.”
“Temple is playing good right now so we know it will be tough match-up. We beat them twice in the regular season, but both were close games,” added Simmons.
Simmons is thankful to be playing the region playoffs at home and hopes to do well in order to earn more home games in the state playoffs. Regardless, of the tourney outcome this week, the team has already qualified for state but the four seeds are still very much up for grabs.
“We get both these games in our gym which is a blessing, but we know everyone is gunning for us,” Simmons says. “These boys have worked hard and we want to be able to hoist that trophy and most importantly earn that top seed at state. Not having to travel in those first two rounds can be a big advantage and we want to head to state hitting on all cylinders.”
With a win in tonight’s game, the Braves will move on to tomorrow night to face either Callaway or Spencer for that elusive region trophy, and either of those squads will present a big challenge.
The Cavaliers have won five consecutive region titles in Class AAA, and although the Braves managed two regular season wins over their arch rivals from just down the road, one of those wins came with the Cavs’ top player out of the line-up.
The 2016-2017 Braves have tallied an impressive 20-4 record due to a lot of factors but most importantly it seems every player in the line-up just want to win and is able to put the team first over the individual. The noticeable unselfishness of the squad under Simmons in his first year has been noted even by coaches from other sports as well as fans and sports reporters from other communities.
The quiet leader for the Braves this season has been post player Jordarius Foster. Foster has led the team in scoring almost every night thanks to his sound fundamentals and his play epitomizes what this team is all about.
Foster’s efforts were recognized this week as he was named the MVP of Region 5-AA, a well-deserved honor for the senior. He is thankful for the honor but more importantly wants a region trophy and a strong run at state.
“It’s been a journey but we’re not satisfied yet until we get that Region 5-AA trophy. We all have one goal at the beginning of each game and that is to win,” says Foster.
The 1959 and 1960 teams played under much different playoff formats, but the seasons were indeed magical under head coach and stadium namesake Don Staples.
The 1960 team finished with a 30-1 record with the only loss coming in the Macon Class B State Semifinals to Telfair County by a score of 54-47.
The Lady Braves will also being their battle for back-to-back Region Titles under coach Helen Akins tonight. They will face off with Lamar County in tonight’s semifinal (7:00 PM) and with a win will face off with either Temple or Callaway in tomorrow night’s Championship game at 7:00 PM.