In analyzing the local prep hoops regular season, repeat winners from the Cullman County Tournament, three teams that have achieved a 20-win season, seven other teams compiling a winning record.
Now we look ahead to the postseason. Known from my terms as "The Road to Birmingham," plenty of excitement awaits our local teams and the passionate fan base as well.
Those who love prep basketball always get excited when the AHSAA Northwest Regional invades Wallace State's Tom Drake Coliseum.
The 25th anniversary of this sports spectacular will be during February 15-21. That time signifies the stretch run of the playoffs before it concludes with the AHSAA Final Four the week of February 26.
As area tournament play begins the segment of the Road to Birmingham, we look at how each local team stack up in trying to move into the postseason one step at a time.
2A, Area 13:
(G) At Cold Springs and St. Bernard for the varsity.
FLASH NOTES: Cold Springs Lady Eagles are again the best and will be favored of taking down another area championship. The team has fought off injuries and illness, plus having home court at the friendly confines of Jesse George Gymnasium.
A good season has been put together for St. Bernard. The Saints were 5-1 in the area and able to win a coin toss from Falkville to get the tournament at the Fazi-Richard Athletic Center.
St. Bernard is only 2-3 in its last five games. The Saints have gone through illness like many squads. But playing at home makes it an opportunity to continue a very good season. St. Bernard is 7-2 on the home floor. Cold Springs is optimistic of trying to upset Falkville in the semis. The Eagles took St. Bernard to overtime last week and played two close games on the season with Falkville.
3A, Area 11:
(G) at Locust Fork, At Holly Pond for the varsity.
FLASH NOTES: Defending state champion Locust Fork Lady Hornets will be the favorite while the Holly Pond Lady Broncos look to upset No. 2 seed Susan Moore.
Winning has been a regular pace for Holly Pond. The No. 5 Broncos are 24-3 through the regular season, 10-0 since January 5 and have a 12-1 record with 11 straight victories at Felton Easterwood Gym. Holly Pond is 56-5 the last two seasons. This team is determined to make it back to back visits to Birmingham for the 3A Final Four.
3A, Area 12:
(G) at Hanceville, Hanceville to host the varsity.
FLASH NOTES: Two winning programs for this year reign from Hanceville. The Lady Bulldogs have blended their experience together and are pulling out victories. An 18-8 mark is the Lady 'Dogs best under Christina Watson, with more waiting for them in their quest to continue success on the floor.
Hanceville has gone 9-2 since January, has an 8-3 record at Lane Horton Gym and is battled tested after hard fought wins last week against No. 4 ranked Locust Fork (51-48) and Good Hope (47-44).
The Bulldogs have through a season of winning streaks and losses that should have been in the victory column.
Hanceville has to play sharp in the postseason for the Bulldogs, who have talent in several positions, to put themselves in a position of a trip from Lane Horton Gym, one mile North to Wallace State for the regionals.
4A, Area 10:
(G) at Good Hope, Cordova will host the varsity.
FLASH NOTES: A coin toss prevailed for Good Hope with the Lady Raiders now in the sub-region from a 3-team area. Defeating Cordova or Dora in the finals will allow the Lady Raiders a sub-regional game on campus for the second straight year under Amanda Swann.
Good Hope played well despite falling in the final seconds to Hanceville last Friday 47-44. That can be built for momentum and also defending home court.
No. 1 Cordova will face the winner of Good Hope vs. Dora. The Raiders and Dora split their season series, winning as a road team.
Good Hope is a unit like several others, that has signs of good and not so good. Dora knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs last year on a buzzer beater. Revenge should be one factor in the Raiders' mind, along with a steady performance for 32:00.
5A, Area 12:
(G) at Fairview, Hayden to host the varsity.
FLASH NOTES: A collision course between the Fairview Lady Aggies and West Point Lady Warriors is very possible. But Hayden's Lady Wildcats will try to be the road block for West Point. Hayden is only 10-9, but defeated West Point at home 71-55 on January 18.
The Lady Warriors have regrouped following a semifinal loss in the county to Cold Springs.
Fairview is 7-1 at Joe Shults Gym. Their eight-game winning streak ended in a 53-46 loss to Brewer last Thursday. But playing the Morgan County champion provides the back to back Cullman County champion what they need in adjusting as the playoffs begin.
Fairview and West Point go for the winner take all prize with the area tournament at Hayden. Hayden got the coin toss over the two county schools as all three fought it out at 4-2 in area play.
Fairview finished the season battling through illness. West Point lost twice in a week span to Holly Pond. Both can push aside the adversity and see who wants it the most in a Cullman County clash at a neutral site.
6A, Area 14:
(G) at Brewer, Albertville to host the varsity.
FLASH NOTES: Cullman Lady Bearcats were 2nd in the area regular season to Brewer. They have to not let Fort Payne get the best of them in the semis at Randolph Ryan Gymnasium. Cullman has had success, but has lost three in a row, two the past week to solid programs from Athens and Hartselle by close margins.
Brewer is 26-4 and when the Lady Patriots are playing well, they are hard to be defeated, especially with the area tournament at home.
Cullman goes into the area tournament with energy, blasting rival Hartselle 68-50 last Thursday on senior night. The Bearcats mix it up with a fast pace Fort Payne squad. The two split in the regular season, winning at home.
Cullman will have to deal with Fort Payne's tempo and ability to score on 3-point shots and points through transition. The Bearcats are capable of matching fire with fire.
Brewer and Albertville is the other semi. A game that can be considered a toss up, even with it being in Albertville. Brewer can score points and get into a flow as can Albertville.
Photo 1: Holly Pond Broncos vs. Cold Springs December 1 at Holly Pond.
Photo 2: Hanceville Lady Bulldogs at Vinemont Lady Eagles December 5.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton