The journey is certain to feature some tense moments — but that’s where the fun comes in.
The urgency of the situation is what makes this time of year so compelling.
Simply put, it’s crunch time for the local teams, who will open region tournament play this week.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Rome High coach Kevin Strickland.
For some teams, this week’s action won’t just center around trying to get to the state tournament. It’s about arriving there in style.
The Model girls, for instance, already know their postseason itinerary will include a trip to the state event — they assured themselves of that by finishing No. 2 in the 7-AA standings — but the Lady Devils aren’t satisfied with simply having a ticket in hand.
Model head coach Sally Echols said her team plans to approach the postseason with the same intensity as normal.
“It’s understood (among the girls) that we’re going out there and give it our best shot,” said Echols. “Our goal is to walk away with no regrets, and the best way to do that is to give 100 percent.”
The Darlington girls are a similar situation.
The Lady Tigers have virtually assured themselves of a state tournament berth based on their No. 3 position in the Class A power rankings.
Still, the Lady Tigers are approaching the postseason with hunger.
They will be looking to punctuate what has been perhaps the finest season in team history.
Meanwhile, four other local teams — Armuchee, Pepperell, Coosa and Rome — will enter this week with hopes of extending their season by making a region tournament run that results in a trip to state.
Armuchee, Model and Coosa will each be involved in the 7-AA tournament at Georgia Highlands. The tourney opens on Tuesday, with Calhoun being the No. 1 seed.
Here’s a closer look at what’s ahead for the local teams (in alphabetical order):
ARMUCHEE: The Lady Indians are the No. 4 seed for this week’s 7-AA tournament.
They will open play on Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s Pepperell-Chattooga game. The winner of Wednesday’s game earns a berth in the state tournament.
Armuchee closed the regular season on a hot streak, winning nine of its final 13 games.
In order to make a run during this week’s tourney, the Lady Indians will need solid production from senior post player Heather Shore.
She has the ability to take a game over, and she will likely need to do that several times this week for the Lady Indians to advance deep into the tourney.
COOSA: The Lady Eagles are the No. 7 seed in the 7-AA tourney, and will face No. 6-seeded Murray County in the opening round on Tuesday.
Coosa won two region games in the regular season, with both victories coming against Chattooga.
The Lady Eagles’ offense struggled in the final three weeks of the season, and was routinely limited to 30 points or less.
In order to make a run at this week’s tourney, the Lady Eagles will need guard Perry Shumate to get hot — and stay hot.
The freshman is a dangerous outside shooter, and if she and fellow guard Heather Faust can find a groove, the Lady Eagles will have a chance to make some noise.
DARLINGTON: The Lady Tigers open the 6-A tourney today, facing Whitefield Academy at 4 p.m. at Walker School.
Darlington is the No. 2 seed from the West subregion and Whitefield Academy is the No. 7 seed from the East.
The Lady Tigers clinched the No. 2 seed by posting an impressive road win against Gordon Lee on Saturday.
In the days ahead, the Lady Tigers will be looking to put a storybook ending on a season that has featured wins over the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the state (SACA and Holy Innocents’).
The Lady Tigers’ list of highlights also includes winning the Rome News-Tribune/Seven Hills Rotary Club Holiday Festival in December.
In order to make a run at this week’s tourney, the Lady Tigers will need to simply keep doing what they’ve been doing.
Maggie Beth Atha, Terar Stewart and Bailey Brock have been carrying the bulk of the scoring load, and several other key players, including Sarah Manning, have made steady contributions.
MODEL: With seven seniors on the roster, the Lady Devils are hoping to make a deep run through February.
They will be the No. 2 seed at the 7-AA tourney, and won’t get into postseason action until Friday’s semifinals.
“For us, the main thing is just working to stay focused,” said Echols, “and fine tuning ourselves, regardless of the opponents ends up being.”
In order to make a run at this week’s tourney, the Lady Devils will need strong play from their 1-2 inside punch of Carla Clemmons and Caroline Long.
Although both players have been hampered by injuries — Clemmons has battled a back problem all season, and Long recently sustained a high ankle sprain — the duo can be devastating for opponents.
PEPPERELL: The Lady Dragons are the No. 5 seed for the 7-AA tourney, and will play No. 8-seeded Chattooga on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Pepperell, which will need two wins in the tournament to make it to state, will be facing Chattooga for the third time in the span of less than two weeks. The Lady Dragons won both match-ups, including last Friday’s tightly-contested 60-50 victory in Lindale.
Pepperell has flirted with several upsets this season. The Lady Dragons suffered two narrow losses to Model (by three and four points) last month, and also gave Calhoun a stiff test for 3½ quarters before the Lady Jackets pulled away.
In order to make a run at this week’s tourney, the Lady Dragons will need Erin Wilder to continue to produce solid numbers. The sophomore, who suffered a torn ACL at last year’s subregion tournament, has played her best basketball of the season in the past few weeks.
ROME HIGH: The Lady Wolves, who closed the regular season with three straight wins, open the 5-AAAAA tourney on Tuesday, facing Villa Rica at Paulding County.
Rome — the No. 3 seed from subregion ‘B’ — can clinch a state tourney berth with a victory.
The Lady Wolves, who have gone 6-2 since Jan. 11, will be facing a powerful Villa Rica team that went 11-3 in subregion ‘A.’
In order to make a run at this week’s tourney, the Lady Wolves will need several players to step up and provide scoring support for Astri Dupree.
Dupree has routinely posted double-doubles in region play, but the Lady Wolves have endured some problems on the offensive end at times this season, being held to 45 points or less in nine games.