Brunswick High girls basketball coach Maria Mangram knows it’s not easy being on the road in the state tournament, even if your 5-hour ride is on a comfortable coach bus liner.
“We get to play at home and not have to worry about that ride,” Mangram said. “Even last year, when we went to Columbus for the Elite Eight, we were on a coach bus but it’s still a long ride. Five hours is five hours — it’s still hard to get off a bus and play.”
If all goes right for the Lady Pirates this postseason, they won’t have to leave the confines of their home gym until the Final Four. That journey starts at 6 p.m. today when the Region 2-6A champs host Stephenson, the No. 4 seed out of Region 4-6A, in a first-round clash.
At the same time across town, the Glynn Academy girls begin what Lady Terrors fans hope will also be a long playoff run against Jonesboro. The Glynn girls, the No. 2 seed out of Region 2, get to at least start at home against a Jonesboro squad that is the No. 3 seed out of Region 4 and beat Stephenson 52-33 in the third-place game.
Jonesboro finished the season with a 14-14 record but closed the season strong with with three wins in their last four games. They’re only loss in that stretch was a five-point defeat in the region semifinals against Lovejoy.
As a team, Jonesboro is averaging 47.6 points per game this season while holding opponents to 41.8 points per game.
Awaiting Jonesboro is a Lady Terror team that caught fire the second half of the season, winning seven of its last nine games. Glynn (16-11) has also been a tough team to beat at home recently, winning its last four home games.
The Lady Terrors are averaging 44 points per game this season but only allowing under 40 points per game. The winner of today’s game will either play at Region 8 champion Winder-Barrow or host Region 6 No. 4 seed Sequoyah.
For the Lady Pirates, they face a Stephenson team that they got an up close look at Saturday in their loss to Jonesboro.
“We had some film on them, but we also went and watched them live,” Mangram said. “They don’t play a lot of girls, maybe seven, and we go a little deeper on our bench.”
Mangram also said her squad is peaking at the right time. The Lady Pirates (16-11) have won five straight games, and are coming off a close win against Glynn in the region title game last week.
“I feel real good about how we’re playing right now,” Mangram said. “We started winning and putting things together a the right time.”
Brunswick led its region averaging more than 51 points per game this season, while holding opponents to under 43 points per game. Mangram said that the needed effort on loose balls and rebounds wasn’t there early in the season for the Lady Pirates, but it has improved as the season has gone along.
“It’s like the old cliche, defense wins championships and offense sells the tickets,” Mangram said. “That’s what we’re banking on simply because we don’t have one girl we depend on to put up 20 points. We all contribute, and it’s been nine points and 10 from different players. We just know our defense is what gets us going.”
With a win, Brunswick will host either Region 8 No. 2 seed Gainesville or Region 6 No. 3 seed River Ridge. Either way, the team is excited to show what it can do after reaching the Class 5A Final Four last season.
“We’re ready,” Mangram said. “We get another chance to prove ourselves.”