By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Sherando and Millbrook have played two games this season, both of which came down to the wire. It's only fitting that the third meeting between the two teams will kick off the Northwestern District girls basketball tournament.
The Warriors and Pioneers will play today in a one-game playoff to decide the top seed for the tournament, and an automatic Region II berth.
"It's obviously exciting," Sherando coach Kevin Reed said. "I think it's great for the area. If pure basketball fans, and the Sherando, Millbrook basketball fans can come out and enjoy it as a healthy competition, I think that it will be a lot more entertaining for everybody involved. Because you do have two teams that are willing to compete and both want it really bad."
Sherando beat Millbrook, 50-47, on Jan. 8 at Sherando. The Warriors got off to a blazing start and held off a furious Millbrook rally. The Pioneers had chances late in the game to tie it, but couldn't get the shots to fall.
In the rematch on Jan. 29 at Millbrook, the Pioneers raced out to a 15-point halftime lead before the Warriors made a rally. The Pioneers were able to hit enough shots and free throws down the stretch to pull out a 64-60 win.
This time there's much more at stake -- the winner will be the No. 2 seed in the Region II, Division 4 tournament.
"To have the opportunity to have two home games for the right to go to the state tournament is big," Reed said.
The winner of today's game will also be the top seed in the tournament, and will play in the semifinals against the winner of today's second contest between fourth-seeded Handley and fifth-seeded Skyline, which starts 20 minutes after the Sherando-Millbrook game is finished. The loser of the Sherando-Millbrook game will be the second seed and will play third-seeded James Wood.
The semifinals will be held at Handley on Tuesday. Reed said he expects it to be a very tough tournament.
"You got multiple teams that could upset another team," Reed said. "I think James Wood has played really well this year. [James Wood] Coach [Rhonda] Slider has done a good job with them. Obviously, you got Millbrook and Sherando, the two teams that split the regular season contests, and a scrappy Handley team, who has some good athletes that will give you some problems."
The Northwestern District boys basketball tournament also kicks off tonight at Millbrook. Fifth-seeded Skyline plays fourth-seeded James Wood in the play-in game tonight at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will play top-seeded Sherando in the semifinals on Wednesday. All games of the tournament will be held at Millbrook.
The Hawks have had some ups and downs, but coach Jacob Bates feels his team is playing better at the end of the season.
"I feel like our guys are working harder than they have all season," Bates said after a recent loss to Sherando.
The Warriors have already clinched a Region II, Division 4 berth, but coach Garland Williams wants his team to stay focused for the district tournament.
"We know we have a regional game, but we want to do well in the tournament," Williams said. "We'll get ourselves ready for that."
Handley and Millbrook will play each other in the other Northwestern District semifinal on Wednesday. The two teams split their regular season matchups.
Williams said he expects it to be a really good tournament.
"We feel it's going to be a tough tournament," Williams said. "You can't take anyone lightly. We beat some of the guys twice, but still that doesn't mean anything. Records are 0-0."
Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org