Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Chapel Hill coach Chris Long says that its time for his team to start playing its best basketball in the next few weeks.

Games this weekend will continue to shape the Region 5-AAAAA girls standings as several key match-ups are on tap.

Chapel Hill will travel to rival Alexander for a key game that has the two teams separate by a win in the region standings. Another big game on schedule for tonight is Lithia Springs hosting New Manchester.

After suffering a second region loss on Tuesday to South Paulding, the Jaguars need a win to help maintain its second place tie in the standings.

On Saturday, New Manchester host defending champion and region leader Hiram.

“The next two games are big for us,” New Manchester coach Vincent Parks said. “It is going to be a challenge as we have two big games back-to-back. Hopefully we will play our best basketball over the next two games. Lithia Springs is a mental challenge because it is against our rival up the road. Hiram has been the best team in our region the last two years. I think the girls are up to the challenge.”

Parks said part of the reason for Tuesday’s 42-40 setback to South Paulding was rust from the holiday break. The Jaguars have lost their last two games by a combined six points and are now in a second-place tie with South Paulding.

The Spartans play at Hiram today so New Manchester has a chance to retake sole possession of second place with a win over Lithia Springs.

Teams that finish in the top two spots earn a bye into the region tournament’s semifinals which guarantee them a state playoff berth.

New Manchester girls have never been to the state playoffs in its five-year history.

Chapel Hill will be trying to stay in the mix for a high seed for next month’s region tournament. The Panthers have a 3-4 region record and in seventh place while Alexander is 4-3 in the region and in fifth place.

“I always want our team to play is best basketball in January as you head into February,” Chapel Hill coach Chris Long said. “Hopefully we will begin to start hitting our stride at the right time. There are a lot of factors that go into the game, which is a part of athletics. Most people just see the games on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and not all the preparation that is involved.”

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