Frederica Academy’s hoops squads don’t have to worry about booking a playoff spot this week at the GISA Region 2-3A tournament. That was sewn up when both the boys and girls earned the No. 2 seed for the region tournament.
That was one of the goals Lady Knights coach Sarah Helder set before the season.
“I think the biggest thing we wanted to do was not put ourselves in a position to play in that play-in game,” Helder said. “I think we feel confident. The thing that I love about this team is that they’re jelling together. I think we’re having fun together, and they enjoy being around each other. At the end of the day, it’s going to be having fun on the court and not playing with pressure.”
Of course, there is still plenty to play for this week in Statesboro.
The No. 1 seed for both boys and girls will get to host two first-round playoff games next week — its game and the No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup in that quarter of the bracket — when the Class AAA state tournament begins.
The challenge in the region tournament comes from playing teams for a third time. The Frederica boys will be paired against Pinewood Christian, who it swept in the regular season. That game is slated for 5:30 p.m. today at host Bulloch Academy.
Boys head coach Carl Nash liked the way his team played the final few weeks, which included a 55-34 win over Pinewood in the regular season finale on Friday.
“We’ve played well toward the end, which is a good sign,” Nash said. “It’s always an uneasy feeling going into a tournament when you’ve beaten a team twice and the last time by quite a bit. We have to be prepared for that. I think they will be a little better than they were at our place.”
Before the boys hit the court in Statesboro, the Lady Knights will play its semifinal against Trinity Christian at 4 p.m. today. Frederica split its two games this season against Trinity, losing by six in Dublin and rebounding with a 15-point win on St. Simons Island.
Helder said her squad did a better job in the second game of defending the paint, holding Trinity’s biggest threat on the blocks to 1 point after giving up 15 points in the first game.
She also said Trinity has two good 3-point shooters that Frederica can’t let get open looks.
“The last two weeks, we’ve played really well together and I think that’s going to be they key (Thursday) and going through the region and state tournament,” Helder said. “I think we’re in a good situation to be playing Trinity. The No. 1 seed has to play Bulloch at Bulloch and that can be tough to do. We just can’t let them have open shots.”
With things tightening up at this point in the season, the things that don’t necessary make the stat box become more important.
Nash said he expects the team’s scoring and defense to be there, but “the little things” will determine how far the Knights go.
“Little things for a lot of coaches are big things, like 50/50 balls, are extremely important,” Nash said. “Rebounding the ball is very important. Limiting them to one shot and making sure we take good shots is very important.”
Nash isn’t focused on the “win-or-go-home” mentality that can permeate throughout the postseason. He wants his teams loose heading into the big games.
“Basketball is a long season,” Nash said. “I think what you have to do is have your players be loose and no so tight at this time of year.
“They way I approach it is more ‘Hey, let’s go out, play hard and play well and let things happen where they may. Let’s continue to advance,’” Nash said. “If you go in there too tight, I think it can lead to disaster.”
For Helder, the outcome in the postseason could come down to which team has the right mindset heading onto the court.
“At this point, with everybody being so close, it’s going to come down to who’s ready to play,” Helder said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with how we finished the regular season, and we’re looking forward to a good postseason.”