Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Deesha Brefford looks to lead New Manchester to its first state playoff berth in school history.

As Alexander looks to continue to play the role of Region 5-AAAAA Tournament’s Cinderella, New Manchester is trying to make school history.

Alexander, the No. 7 seed entering the weeklong tournament, has defeated No. 10 seed Paulding County and No. 6 seed Chapel Hill. A win over No. 3 seed South Paulding gives the Cougars their second straight state tournament berth.

Alexander hasn’t made consecutive playoff appearance since the 2006 and 2007 tournaments.

The Cougars, who enter the 7:30 p.m. game at South Paulding, are 9-15 overall. South Paulding and Alexander split during the regular season with each winning on their home court.

Alexander came into the tournament having lost five of their last six games.

“We are starting to jell as a team,” Alexander coach Adam Watts said. “We are starting to pick up our scoring as we have scored 68 and 55 points in our last two wins. We are getting some minutes from our bench and they are playing well.”

Watts said there is a lot of parity in the league once you get past regular-season region champion Hiram.

“I’ve always said there isn’t much difference between the No. 2 through No. 7 teams in our region,” Watts said. “Each of these teams are very close. I’ve always felt comfortable in playing any of those teams because we were so close.”

While Alexander is playing for its second straight playoff berth, New Manchester is looking to clinch the first playoff berth in school history.

The Jaguars finished third in the region behind Hiram and Villa Rica.

New Manchester and Villa Rica were tied for second heading into the final couple weeks of the season but a loss to South Paulding cost the Jaguars down the stretch.

To get its first playoff berth, the Jaguars will have to defeat Lithia Springs for a third time this season. The teams met 11 days ago with New Manchester getting a close 48-46 win on its home court.

This game will feature two of the best players in the region going against each other. Lithia Springs junior Kiana Johnson is averaging about 20 points again while Deesha Brefford of New Manchester is chipping in 14.6 points per game.

Both players reached the 1,000 career point mark during the season.

“It is always tough beating a team for a third time,” New Manchester coach Vincent Parks said. “Both games have been close and I expect another nip-and-tuck type of game. We have had two days to practice to work out some of our kinks.”

Parks said his team realizes what is at stake against Lithia Springs, which was region runner-up last season.

Lithia Springs is also chasing some program history as it has never made consecutive state playoff appearances.

“We have discussed what a win would mean for our program,” Parks said. “This is a huge opportunity for our team.”

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