The Class AAAA state basketball playoffs begin for three county teams this weekend. Here's a look at the trio and their first-round opponents.
Region 8-AAAA No. 2 Salem girls vs. Region 7-AAAA No. 3 Forsyth Central
The No. 2 seed Seminoles have come a long way in one season. After winning just five games in 2010-11, the Seminoles finished as the region runner-up and will host an opening round playoff game. Before Salem (19-8) lost in the tournament title game to Habersham Central, the Conyers school knocked off Flowery Branch in the semifinals.
Despite the victory, the Seminoles dealt with a huge loss as freshman sensation Ayanna Mitchell went down with an injury with less than a minute to play. Mitchell, who was one of four county players to make the all-region girls team, suffered a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the postseason.
Still, the Seminoles have freshman guard Shay Tarver, who scored 18 points against Habersham, and will host at 7 p.m. Friday a 19-win Bulldogs team that slipped by Lambert in the Region 7-AAAA third-place game.
Region 8-AAAA No. 3 Rockdale boys at Region 7-AAAA No. 2 Woodland
For the Bulldogs, it'll be a much different feeling than the previous two seasons heading into the state playoffs.
The last two years, Rockdale won the region championship and entered the state playoffs as a top seed and a favorite to reach the final four, including last year's state runner-up team. This season's team is still strong, led by region player of the year C.J. Wilson (24.3 points per game in league tournament) and all-region performer Charles Moore, though a loss in the semifinals to Cedar Shoals forced the Bulldogs (19-8) to defeat rival Salem for third place.
"I'm thankful that we're in (the state playoffs)," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said. "Let's get in there and make some noise."
Woodland, which hosts the Bulldogs on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., has lost just twice in 28 games, but one of those losses came to Chattahoochee in the region championship game.
Region 8-AAAA No. 4 Salem boys at Region 7-AAAA champion Chattahoochee
After a convincing quarterfinal victory over Madison County, the Salem boys were in great position to win the school's first region tournament championship.
But a semifinal loss to Loganville preceded a double-digit setback against Rockdale, and now the Seminoles will head to Fulton County to play the league champion Cougars (23-5) Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Still, the Seminoles have already surpassed their school record for wins, are back in the state playoffs for the second consecutive season and boast one of the region's finest players in junior guard Dedrick Turner (19 points per game in region tournament). Chattahoochee, led by Clemson commitment Jaron Blossongame, has won five consecutive games.