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franklin county times

January brings ‘separation anxiety’

By Bart Moss / For the FCT

January is always a pivotal month in high school basketball.

Teams are jockeying for position in their respective areas and hoping to host an area tournament. Teams are beginning to get a feel for each other – how they play, who is going to be a contender and who has the potential to be a spoiler. January is the month when the teams start separating from each other.

The Franklin County Tournament is also sandwiched in the middle of the January contests. Three teams in the county compete in 1A, Area 13 – Belgreen, Tharptown and Vina. Two teams in the county compete in 2A, Area 14 – Phil Campbell and Red Bay. Although the county tournament doesn’t count toward area records and seeding in tournament play in February, it is a major event in the county – and the teams are very familiar with each other by tournament time.

Looking at the month ahead, who has the upper hand in their areas? Here are some projections based on previous matchups and observations – but games are played on the court, not on paper, so things can and might very well change.

1A, Area 16 girls

Host Projection: Phillips

The Phillips Bears are heads above every other team in their area right now. They might have a legitimate shot at going to Birmingham and competing for a state title. Odds are the 1A, Area 16 girls tournament will be held in Bear Creek at Phillips High School.

The Belgreen Lady Bulldogs appear to be poised to finish second in their area. They still have to play Tharptown twice in January for regular season matchups, but Belgreen beat the Wildcats in tournament play last week by more than 20 points.

Tharptown and Vina will likely jockey for the third and fourth spot. Vina won the first matchup between the two teams, but it was a close one at Vina. The Red Devils still have to visit Tharptown in January. Vina lives and dies by the three-pointer. If they are hitting the threes, they are hard to stop. If not, they are beatable.

Hackleburg is struggling.

1A, Area 16 boys

Host Projection: Belgreen

The Belgreen Bulldogs appear to be top dogs in this area. The Bulldogs have a very balanced team. They can shoot the three, and they can go inside and score. They like to run the floor and want to score a lot of points.

Belgreen plays Tharptown this week. It will be the teams’ first meeting. For the Wildcats to have a chance, they have to slow the game down and make Belgreen play a half-court game.

Friday’s game against the Wildcats at Belgreen will clear the picture up a bit. But right now, advantage is Belgreen’s.

Tharptown and Hackleburg split games in December and are clearly the two teams fighting for a two seed in the area tournament. Vina and Phillips will be jockeying for the lower seeds.

2A, Area 14 girls

Host Projection: Phil Campbell

There is no question that Phil Campbell has gained the upper hand on Red Bay in this area.

The Bobcats have been inching closer to the Tigers in recent years. This year the Lady Bobcats took firm control of the area and will more than likely host the area tournament in February. Phil Campbell seems to have pretty clear path to making a return trip to the regionals and might have a shot at the final four if the girls continue to play the level they are playing at right now.

Red Bay has fallen but not far. The Lady Tigers have a very good shot at finishing second in the area and making a return trip to the regionals. They have beaten both Sulligent and Lamar County, but they have to face the two teams again in January.

2A, Area 14 boys

Host Projection: Red Bay

The Red Bay Tigers are poised to host their first area tournament in over two decades. The Tigers are playing about as well as any team around right now. Don’t look for them to slow down in January.

After the Tigers, Lamar County appears to have the upper hand. The Bulldogs have beaten both Phil Campbell and Sulligent. They just beat Sulligent by five and play again in January.

Phil Campbell started off the year playing well, but injuries have taken a toll on the Bobcats. They played hard and led Belgreen at halftime in December before running out of gas.

If the Bobcats can get some players healthy, they could challenge for the two seed in the area.

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