As Lithia Springs has played its way into the upcoming Class AAAAA tournament field through the region tournament, Hiram was sitting back waiting to see who it will play.
Hiram won a bye into the Region 5-AAAAA tournament’s semifinals after clinching the regular-season championship.The Hornets, who bring a 21-game region winning streak into today’s 7 p.m. contest at Lithia Springs, has been idle since Feb. 5.
It is something that Hiram coach Michelle Caldwell is a little concerned with as the teams meet at New Manchester High in the semifinals.
“You can look at this one or two ways in having not played in a while,” Caldwell said. “It can be good because you have had a chance to rest your legs a little bit. On the downside you haven’t had an opportunity to play in a while. It all depends on the mindset of the girls. You never know when you are dealing with teenage girls. It can help you in a way and it also can hurt.”
Lithia Springs has a 16-11 overall record and finished 11-7 in the region to grab the No. 5 seed. The Lions defeated Allatoona (60-47) on Monday and then upset No. 3 seed New Manchester (45-40) on Wednesday to clinch a state playoff berth.
This marks the first time in school history that Lithia Springs has made back-to-back state playoff appearance.
Hiram brings a 22-3 overall mark and 18-0 region record into the game. The Hornets have won five straight games over Lithia Springs since they have been paired in the same region.
“We know what we can expect from Hiram because they are a very good team,” Lithia Springs coach David Mills said. “You know you have a fight on your hands when you play them. You just have to be ready to weather that run they are going to make. We have played them close but they go on a 10-0 run and the game gets out of hand. We will have to give our best effort if we are going to have a chance to win.”
This will also be a rematch of last season’s region champion game, which Hiram won.
The Hornets swept the two-game regular season series.
But Mills has been confident in the way his team has played in the latter part of the season. Lithia Springs has won nine of its last 10 games, only a last second shot against New Manchester in the regular season has been the only blemish.
In Wednesday’s win over New Manchester, junior guard Kiana Johnson had 19 points.
“It was a big team effort,” Mills said. “Yes, Kiana had 19 points but everyone contributed. Any coach will tell you that you want to be peaking at the end of the season. Throughout the season the girls have bought into what we are doing and it has been a process.”
While Caldwell is aware of Johnson, she also emphasis that other players have been stepping up for the Lions. She has been impressed with point guard Arit Asanga, who is averaging 12.6 points. Johnson is the leading scorer at 20 points per game.
“We just can’t concentrate on her (Johnson),” Caldwell said. “They have other players that can beat you. This is a rematch type of game and I’m sure their players will be up for it. They always play us well, and we expect another good game.”