Through the first segment of the AHSAA basketball playoffs, nine local teams worked their way into the championship stage of area tournament play.
That enabled them to punch a ticket into segment two of the format, the sub-regional round.
Five teams prevailed in their respective area as champions, getting the opportunity to play in front of the home fans one final time on the current season.
The winner of the sub-regional, whether it's the road team or the home team, will move on to segment three, the regionals.
Most of the teams in the Sportspage coverage area go to the Northwest Regional at Wallace State. But reclassification for this year and the next, has placed three county schools into the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State.
Sportspage goes into analysis of the sub-regional matchups.
Girls will play on Monday, varsity games are set for Tuesday. All will tip off at 7:00 as set by the AHSAA.
2A: Vincent (7-17) at Cold Springs (23-6): Area 12 champion Cold Springs landed a state tying record 20 treys in routing Cleveland 92-36 Friday night. The Lady Eagles have won three in a row and play very well at Jesse George Gym in a 7-1 record this season. Getting to the NW Regional has been a common item for Tammy West's team. With a stout 3-point attack and solid scoring from Camryn Crider, Elizabeth Hill and Toni West, Vincent will have to play near perfect in order to stun the No. 5 team from the 2A rankings.
3A: Carbon Hill (18-12) at Holly Pond (14-13): Carbon Hill is aware of visiting Cullman County can be rewarding. A year ago, the Lady Bulldogs stunned Hanceville in winning the area title at Lane Horton Gym. Now the runner-up from Area 10 visits the Area 13 champion Lady Broncos. Holly Pond has improved the win total after not getting too many in 2017-18. Balanced play by Tess Duke, Maddie Heatherly, Kirsten Campbell, Kara Hollis and Elizabeth Miller has been a key for Andrew Kelly's unit.
Carbon Hill fell to Winfield 36-34 in the Area 10 final with Holly Pond overcoming a 30-24 deficit, finishing the Area 13 final on an 18-0 run and a 42-30 triumph against New Hope.
4A: Fairview (17-9) at North Jackson (18-13): Two teams tangle in a rare meeting, with both coming off close encounters. Fairview fell at home to Oneonta in 4A, Area 12 play 40-37, not able to secure a 14-point lead in the 1st half. North Jackson got past DAR 50-47 in the Area 14 championship.
Fairview is not postseason experienced, but is learning from that. Having to get on the bus and head Northeast into Jackson County can be a sign of inspiration. Stepping up their performance level is highly possible for Justin Billings' Lady Aggies, with Payton Golden, Katie Ball, Daisy Manasco, Maddie Yeager and Molly McKelvy capable of delivering.
5A: East Limestone (20-9) at West Point (26-5): East Limestone is much better than a 60-12 loss in the Area 16 title game to Madison Academy indicates. This team the week before won at Athens 52-48 and has quality wins over Lawrence County (TN), Lauderdale County and Tanner. A concern for West Point is to try and slow down sophomore post player Jirah Rogers. Rogers is 6'0" and extremely active in the paint. West Point dominated Area 14 as illustrated in a 88-40 clobbering of Hamilton in the final. Leix Shadix has been on top of her game, along with Mackenzie Carter. Getting Miriam Oldacre back after she missed three games to the flu and elbow injury, gives the team a perimeter weapon. A chance to vault into the Northwest Regional for coach John Welborn is well within the grasp. West Point is 9-1 at Jim Boyd Gym, winners of its last four home games.
6A: Cullman (23-9) at Muscle Shoals (16-10): For Cullman to be successful in a road test Monday, the Lady Bearcats have to contain Muscle Shoals' sophomore Sara Puckett. Puckett delivered 20 of 24 points in the opening half, carrying the Lady Trojans past Athens 64-37 in the Area 15 championship on Friday evening. Puckett is 6'0"and will create challenges in trying to deny her the ball.
Cullman played with an aggressive mind set in staying right with No. 4 Hartselle in the first half Friday, trailing 33-32 at halftime. They overcame a 7-point deficit in the first and a 10-point bulge in the second. Getting outscored 22-11 in the third was the difference in falling to their arch rival 71-58.
A.K. Eastman will need to have numerous touches of the ball, so she can create scoring chances. Eastman was 21 of 21 in two tournament games this week and produces better than 20 points a contest.
Getting others to contribute scoring at times like Olivia Neal, Alexandria Barker and A.G. Murphy will take pressure off Eastman. Freshman Jaden Winfrey played well against Decatur and Hartselle in the area tournament, with other reserves like Regan Quattlebaum, Kortlin Cuellar, Kenslee Borden showing potential of making plays from various locations on the floor.
2A: Sumiton Christian (21-7) at Cold Springs (17-9): From suffering through a losing campaign last year, Cold Springs is back to a good winning pattern. The Eagles utilized playing at Jesse George Gymnasium in taking the 2A, Area 12 title from Southeastern Friday evening. Tim Willoughby's Eagles have been blessed by the talent of Landon Freeman, who transferred to the Eagles in the fall from Good Hope. Maturity has been shown in the likes of Adam Hill, Micah Calvert, Brody Peppers, Mason Harris, Francisco Ayala. The Eagles have a winning percentage of .800 at home this season (8-2). Sumiton Christian will be competitive, but the Eagles are delighted that a trip back to Wallace in February can be accomplished by winning Tuesday.
3A: Lamar County (9-14) at Holly Pond (14-15): Ten consecutive area championships have been something that means a great deal to Holly Pond. The Broncos know how to raise the level of performance in the playoffs. A season of hovering around the .500 mark is not common, but what matters is the Broncos are right on track of going back to the NW Regional for the 3rd straight year. Kyler Chaney has anchored the team with scoring and strong play, getting contributions by Cooper Jones, Issac Ludwig, Devyn Tankersley, Jordan Allbright and Levi Boatright.
Lamar County will make a 2-hour trip from Vernon, determined to end the Broncos' quest for a further advancement into the playoffs.
4A: Good Hope (23-6) at DAR (15-15): Playing on the road should not phase Good Hope. The Raiders have accomplished great feats in playing away from home this season by winning the West Point Christmas Classic, beating Hanceville to clinch the No. 1 seed in the county tournament, winning at Wallace in the county tournament over Fairview and Hanceville and victory at challenging sites like Cold Springs, Holly Pond and Cleveland.
The Cullman County champion took Oneonta to the wire, but fell by a field goal in the Area 12 final. A solid season from Cole Maddox, Drew Maddox, Michael Lowe, Noah Fendley, Eli Phares, Matt Dixon, Dawson Turner and Tanner Malin has been achieved for hard work, execution and good chemistry.
Road teams are not given many chances of winning by so-called experts. Drew Adams' team is ready to defy the odds.
Photo of Cullman's A.K. Eastman (3) vs. Hartselle's Moriah Taylor in 6A, Area 14 final.
Sportspage photo by Johnny Thornton
Like the old cliche, "Time flies when you're having fun," is what can be said of the 2018-19 Alabama High School Athletic Association basketball season.
It started on Election Night of November 6 with the Cullman teams enjoying a visit to the new gymnasium at Arab, spoiling the Arabian Knights' moment of a chance for celebration.
On the 1st of February, the regular season concluded as the West Point teams prevailed on senior night, the Good Hope squads combined for road wins and the Hanceville Lady Bulldogs were too much to contain by Dora in winning down in Walker County.
Now the postseason is here as seven teams covered by Sportspage will hope the home court advantage in area play, carries them into the second stage and much further.
Winning has been accomplished in the regular season by nine teams. Others have seen the mixture of good and bad days.
For those who have soared to great heights, they want to make sure one slip up early in the postseason does not occur. Otherwise, the season enters the memory bank.
Sportspage is analyzing the chances of varsity and girls teams through what they experienced in the regular schedule.
The opportunity for several to move into the regional portion of the playoffs is very strong. But it will take solid efforts, beginning with the area, then trying to nail down a regional berth through a sub-regional assignment from a neighboring area.
Here's an analysis by Sportspage for the team's quest into the 2019 basketball postseason.
Cold Springs - Eagles are 15-9 entering the 2A, Area 12 tournament at home. They went 6-0 in the area and are favorites of claiming the top spot next week. Cleveland was 2nd at 4-2 in the standings and will present a challenge. The winner of Area 12 will face Area 10 in the Sub-Regional. Sumiton Christian and Vincent tied at 5-1 with Vincent winning the coin toss to get home court.
Good Hope - A great season for the Raiders has been compiled with 22 victories, a 7-game winning streak and their first county championship since 2010. The Raiders will have to visit Oneonta for the 4A, Area 12 Tournament. Playing Fairview for the 4th time will not be easy. The Raiders shot by the Aggies 70-51 in the county semis. Oneonta is on the other side of the bracket.
Opposite of Area 12 is Area 14 for the Sub-Region. DAR is the host, but only 14-15 with Randolph 11-12 and North Jackson 10-14. Area 12 is participating in the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State.
Holly Pond - Broncos have seen ups and downs this year. Going into the 3A, Area 13 Tournament in which they will host, Holly Pond has lost four straight. All games have been close including an 80-77 defeat to West Point February 1.
Brindlee Mountain finished 4-2, but it was New Hope that beat the Broncos in OT at Holly Pond January 18, keeping HP from a perfect area mark. New Hope went 3-3 in area play.
Area 13 will be challenged in the sub-region by Area 10. Oakman won the area with a 5-1 record and is 14-5 entering the playoffs. Winfield has dropped back to 3A and will be a team to contend with, despite having to play the tournament in Walker County.
Hanceville - Momentum needed for the Bulldogs in hosting the 3A, Area 12 Tournament slipped through the grasp of a 71-60 overtime loss at Dora Friday night. Hanceville has lost two of its last three games, with both by double digit margins.
The Bulldogs are the host for the area tournament. Concerns are about their consistency. Hanceville lost four times on the home court in 12 games. The losses were to good squads in Cullman, Cold Springs, Holly Pond and Good Hope.
Susan Moore played Hanceville very tight on January 11 in Area 12 competition. A team that has plenty of skilled players per position, must lock in on consistent execution, or the first season under Stephen Chandler will be short of reaching an ultimate goal.
Area 12 is sanctioned for the Northeast Region. The sub-region round will be matched against Area 9. Midfield is the best team in area play at 6-0, but is 7-14 overall. Fultondale finished 2nd at 4-2 and is 17-5 for the season.
West Point - Another ball club that has seen victory and defeat in a mix. West Point's 80-77 triumph against Holly Pond in the finale was good to stop a 3-game slide. The Warriors are capable of good performances in 32-minute assignments and also endure lapses in critical moments of games.
Now comes the challenge of facing Russellville in the 5A, Area 14 Tournament in Hamilton next week. The Warriors won 70-69 at Russellville January 4, the Golden Tigers got a last second game winner two weeks later at West Point by the score of 87-85. All the hype is ready for the showdown, with the winner to move on to the finals against Hamilton or Lawrence County.
Out of Area 16, East Limestone is the host with Madison County 2nd, Madison Academy in 3rd place. East is 17-6 and had a 5-1 record during the area schedule.
Cullman - A concern for Cullman at the present time is trying to develop consistency on offense, especially with the Bearcats going on the road for the postseason. Cullman suffered tough losses in the final week of regular play at Hartselle and Athens. Both losses were better than 30 points and the offense accounted for 74 points, while allowing the Tigers and Golden Eagles to score a combine 149 points.
The third meeting between Cullman and Decatur is Tuesday in Hartselle as the winner will battle the Tigers next Friday for the 6A, Area 14 championship.
A victory against Decatur gives the Bearcats a sub-regional berth. The problem for the 'Cats is will it be against Columbia or Muscle Shoals, or even Athens from Area 15?
St. Bernard has Falkville in the 1A, Area 13 first round, with the winner to tangle with No. 1 ranked Decatur Heritage on the Eagles' home floor.
Fairview faces Good Hope in Oneonta for 4A, Area 12, while Vinemont is Holly Pond's opponent for the 3A, Area 13 Tournament.
Cold Springs - Postseason play has been a strong suit for the Lady Eagles in recent years. This team has made it a regular part of the tour to play in the Northwest Regional.
Many expect Tammy West's club to be there in mid February.
A 21-6 regular record and 6-0 in 2A, Area 12 is what the Lady Eagles have experienced with the home floor to be a benefit for the area tournament.
Cleveland was 4-2, but was outshot by Cold Springs in both losses. The Lady Panthers are 7-14 and were defeated by a young Good Hope team Friday night.
Altamont had a perfect Area 10 record and will be the area host. Vincent and Sumiton Christian finished 2nd and 3rd in the area. Both will have difficulty to dethrone the Lady Eagles from the playoffs, especially if they have to pay a sub-regional visit to Jesse George Gymnasium.
Fairview - Good things have taken place for this team in 2018-19 when many doubted them. A young team with very limited varsity experience and a new coach have blended together in 16 victories in 25 games and a 5-1 record in 4A, Area 12. The Lady Aggies got the coin toss over Oneonta, avoiding a tournament trip into Blount County.
Coach Justin Billings' Lady Aggies face Good Hope in the area tourney opener, while Oneonta takes on Ashville. A collision course is anticipated between the two for February 7.
From Area 14, DAR and North Jackson finished 3-1. DAR got the coin toss and will await the winner of North Jackson-Randolph for the area title at the end of the week.
Hanceville - With Cassidy Campbell back in the lineup from her ACL injury, the Lady Bulldogs posted a 7-4 record. Without her, they were 7-6. Her presence has allowed Kelly Pickett to maintain a high scoring status. Campbell and Kierra Merriweather are capable to producing double-digit games with the opposition so concerned about Pickett.
Now the Lady Bulldogs deal with Glencoe in the 3A, Area 12 Tournament in Susan Moore. A game that is a toss-up as both split the season series. Glencoe is in the Top 10 of the 3A poll at No. 10 and is eager to keep the Lady Bulldogs from reaching the area final with the probable opponent to be Susan Moore.
Midfield and Locust Fork are the top two teams from Area 9. Midfield is 18-7 going to the postseason with Locust Fork 18-6.
Holly Pond - Going from half a dozen wins last season to a dozen in the second year under Andrew Kelly is a positive for Holly Pond. They challenged Cold Springs and West Point hard, but fell in close margins from the last two weeks of the season.
The Lady Broncos have the 3A, Area 13 Tournament at Felton Easterwood Gym. Holly Pond matches up with Vinemont in the opener, the other game is Brindlee Mountain vs. New Hope.
An area title would allow the Lady Broncos to avoid a possible sub-regional with 27-1 Winfield from Area 10. But Oakman is 14-3 and will do what is possible of taking the area title away from the Lady Pirates next week.
West Point - John Welborn has seen the Lady Warriors prevail 24 times out of 29 decisions, the best record under his guidance. West Point heads to the playoffs hosting the 5A, Area 14 Tournament as a tired ball club.
The Cullman County champion played six games in a span of 11 days from January 21 to February 1. The last three games they had did not include guard Miriam Oldacre. Oldacre was not 100 percent healthy from a virus in the county title game and hurt her elbow late in the fourth period.
West Point is well balanced and has been battled tested in the past four games. The Lady Warriors encounter Russellville in the area semis. Lawrence County and Hamilton meet in the other area game.
The opposite area for sub-regional play is strong with Madison Academy 18-6 and 6-0 in Area 16, followed by East Limestone 18-8, 4-2 and Ardmore 17-9, 3-3.
Winning the area will be a blessing for the Lady Warriors. But they will have to have a solid performance in the sub-region or could miss the Northwest Regional by a mere one game.
Cullman - Winning has been on the rise from the Lady Bearcats' first season under Josh Hembree to his current third year. From 15 to 18 to 22, Cullman is putting together a ball club that has bought into Hembree's philosophy.
But the Lady 'Cats have been unable to roll off a series of quality wins. Hartselle rolled by Cullman 66-41 on January 28 and Athens took them down in its new gym February 1 by the score of 70-55.
Cullman will be a major favorite to defeat Decatur in the 6A, Area 14 Tournament Tuesday and head back to Hartselle next Friday for the area championship.
A loss in the finals would be a probable trip for Hembree's squad to Muscle Shoals or Athens from Area 15. Muscle Shoals will host the area with Athens to play Columbia in the first round. Athens is a small squad, but dangerous in many aspects and would love to play a postseason game in its new building.
St. Bernard meets Lynn in the 4 vs. 5 matchup for 1A, Area 13. The winner is back to Decatur Heritage Tuesday and in a meeting with the regular season champion Lady Eagles.
Good Hope has a game vs. Fairview in 4A, Area 12, Vinemont plays Holly Pond in 3A, Area 13. That's four county games in the area postseason. Fairview was 2-0 vs. Good Hope with Holly Pond winning both games over Vinemont by large margins.
Photo of West Point's Olivia Ball being greeted by her parents, Michelle and Freddie Ball, during senior recognition night February 1 at Jim Boyd Gym.
Sportspage photo by Johnny Thornton