By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD — College basketball has its March Madness. High school has its February Frenzy.
Both revel in the unpredictability of postseason play.
Region 2-AAAAAA started a week early with a blockbuster upset, leaving matchups in the air for the boys region tournament that begins Friday.
Who, what, where and when won’t be determined until the final buzzer sounds on the regular season on Feb. 9.
But there is one thing for certain.
“Winning Friday is the most important thing because that means you’re headed to state,” Effingham County boys basketball coach Jake Darling said. “With the young team that we have, I’m proud of how we’ve played. Going into the playoffs it’s good to have some momentum.”
ECHS (16-5, 7-4 Region 2-AAAAAA) has won five games in a row, but a chance to host the region tournament’s first round lost ground Saturday night when Glynn Academy stunned Richmond Hill, 40-38.
Now the Rebels need to duplicate an upset of Richmond Hill on Tuesday to claim a No. 3 seeding.
On paper, it’s a big difference. The No. 3 seed will play either Bradwell Institute (4-12) or South Effingham (5-15) in the first round of region. The No. 4 seed gets matched against Brunswick (14-6) and, if Glynn Academy is the host, it might be like a home game for the Pirates.
The first-round winners advance to the semifinals on Feb. 16 with the region tournament championship and consolation games on Feb. 18.
On Saturday, Darling didn’t want to look too far down the road, although he hopes double-digit scorer Khiry Wallace can return to action this week. Wallace, a 6-foot-3 guard, suffered a dislocated elbow in a non-region game against Benedictine on Jan. 8.
The Rebels have made up for the loss of offense with a renewed focus on defense and have won six of the eight games without Wallace.
“I feel like we’re hitting our stride and getting into a style that fits us,” Darling said.
Despite going winless in the region heading into Feb. 9’s game with Bradwell, South Effingham’s boys still have a shot of making the region tournament.
If the Mustangs can beat Bradwell by five or more points, both teams would be tied for the No. 6 seed and SEHS would own the final tiebreaker which is the margin of victory between the two teams.
Bradwell won the first meeting 57-53 on Jan. 15, but the Mustangs played well early on while opening up a 10-point, first-half lead.
The girls region tournament has a clearer picture. South Effingham (6-15, 2-9) will be the No. 6 seed and plays host Richmond Hill on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to the region semifinals on Feb. 16.
Heading into the regular-season finale, the Mustangs had won just one of their last 13 games. They lost to Richmond Hill 55-36 on Dec. 8 and 53-32 on Jan. 19.
Effingham County’s girls (2-18, 0-11) have gone winless in the region and failed to make the region tournament.