SW GA teams competing in Final Four of state basketball tournaments

Underdog Cairo Syrupmakers boys look to keep hope alive in Columbus

Several Southwest Georgia high schools have teams playing deep into the Georgia state basketball tournaments.

  • Pelham’s girls team will play Holy Innocents (Atlanta) at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga.
  • Seminole County’s boys team will play Vidalia at 8:15 p.m. Friday night at Columbus State University.
  • The Cairo boys team will play Carrollton on Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Ga.

The championship games in all classifications will be played next week at the Macon Centreplex in Macon, Ga.

Who they beat to get to Final Four

Pelham’s girls were the AA Region 1 champions and defeated St. Vincent’s, Darlington and Manchester to get to the semifinals.

Seminole County’s boys were the AA Region 1 champions; their only losses during the regular season were to Bainbridge, which is in the AAAA classification. To get to the Final Four, the Indians beat Benedictine, Rabun County and Manchester.

The Cairo boys were the #4 seed out of AAAA Region 1 and have defeated Perry, Monroe Area and Lithonia to get to the Final Four.

Cairo boys’ road to the Final Four was unexpected; coach credits strong teamwork and defense

cairoIf you just look at the numbers, you might be surprised to see Cairo’s boys team in the Final Four. After all, as a #4 seed out of their region, they had to travel to play a #1 seed, Perry, in the first round, a game that the Syrupmakers won 56-60.

For the second round, the Syrupmakers had to travel to Walton County in suburban Atlanta to play Monroe Area High School, a #3 seed. The Syrupmakers won decisively, 65-50.

Knowing they would have to travel again for their third round game, Cairo’s boys practiced hard for their game against Lithonia, another Atlanta high school that was also a #1 seed. Another big upset win, with the Syrupmakers taking it 61-47.

Cairo is up for a challenge again on Saturday night, as they have a long road trip to face Carrollton High School in essentially their back yard. (The Final Four game sites were set before the season began; however, as fate would have it, both Carrollton’s boys and girls teams went to the Final Four in their respective tournaments.)

Cairo’s boys are led by Head Coach Isiah Chance, Assistant Coach Chris Wright, Assistant Coach Stacey Masten and Assistant Coach Kevin Corker. Wright was the point guard for Cairo High School in 2004, the last time they went to the Final Four, with a team also coached by Chance.

Coach Wright said he isn’t worried about the Syrupmakers, who have several starting senior players, handling the pressure of playing in a big gym with a lot on the line. Wright’s 2004 team played their Final Four game at the Gwinnett Center in Northeast Atlanta, which is almost as large as a pro arena.

“They’ve been playing well all season, but have really stepped it up lately,” Wright said. “I just remind them to keep doing what they’ve been doing and they’ll be fine. To us, we have to approach it like it’s just another game, we’ve still got to play, regardless of where the game is.”

Wright said two of the keys to the Syrupmakers’ success have been good defense, as evidenced by their opponents’ low scores in the state tournament, and a strong sense of teamwork.

Coach Wright waved off naming any of Cairo’s star players, saying “they know it’s important to play together as one unit. At this point, they don’t care who gets the glory afterwards, they just want to keep winning.”

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