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Special Photo/Reggie Davis Ayanna Dinkins is averaging 13.4 points per game as she helps lead Lithia Springs into the first-round of the Class AAAAA playoffs against Loganville today.

For the third-straight season, the Lithia Springs girls basketball team will play in the state tournament. The Region 6-AAAAA runner-ups will host Loganville this evening at 6 p.m. in the first round of the Class 5A State Tournament.

“We’ve really got our work cut out for us,” Lions coach David Mills said. “I’ve watched them and they’re very discipline, very-well coached, very smart, they’re athletic, they got enough size, and they’re [16-12].

“So, they’re a good team. It’s going to be a test for us at home.”

After overcoming a rash of early-season injuries, Lithia Springs (14-12) has only lost three games over the last month. Two of the losses came to the Lions’ Region 6-AAAAA foe Maynard Jackson, with the last being six days ago in the region championship game.

In that game, Lithia Springs lost a 19-5 first-quarter lead it built with strong play defensively and in transition, eventually falling 55-39.

“We’ve got to execute against Loganville,” Mills said. “They’re going to force us to have some possessions where we got to run some offense, just like Maynard did.

“[Against] Maynard we didn’t run the offense very well, as result they got away from us. We get deflated when we don’t score.”

Region player of the year and Lithia Springs’ leading scorer at over 21 points per game, Kiana Johnson, agrees with the role successful offense has for her team’s psyche.

“When we don’t have good practices, it carries over into games,” Johnson said. “I think one thing that will help us is if we don’t let missed shots defeat us because that is what happened in the Maynard game.

“We weren’t hitting shots, we were making bad turnovers, and they were scoring and that really defeated us. We do that this game, it will be our last game playing, so what we need to focus on is making sure we handle the ball first, and then try to execute the plays.”

Loganville is the No. 3 seed from Region 8-AAAAA, where the top-2 teams, Buford and Flowery Branch are a combined 45-8 this season.

“Overall, the region is very strong,” Mills said. “Even their fourth seed is still ranked ahead of us on MaxPreps, and they’re [11-15]. Even though the top-two are way up there, they still give a lot of credit to those three and four seeds.”

Still, Mills hopes a tough non-region schedule and the postseason experience of his upper classmen will put his team in good standing come game time.

“Our seniors are battle-tested, our juniors are battle tested, they’ve been in the state tournament,” Mills said. “They’re not going to be nervous. Whichever team gets the pace of play they want probably is going to win the basketball game.”

Even with previous state tournament trips, the Lithia Springs’ team and community are really looking forward to this evening’s matchup.

“It’s exciting because to be here at home with my seniors, and invite everybody out that’s been supporting us to come and watch us, and we also have a pep rally too, so that makes it even better,” Johnson said.

“Just being here, playing on our home court feels good.”

Fellow senior, and the team’s second-leading scorer Ayanna Dinkins (13.4 points per game average) shares the excitement and she reiterated exactly what the Lions need to do to bounce back from the loss to Maynard Jackson and advance in the state tournament.

“It just was a bad game,” Dinkins said of the region championship loss. “For [today], I’m pretty excited because we’re going to state. As far as offense, as long as we execute, everybody get into the right spots, defense-wise, as long as everybody hustle up and down the court, get rebounds, box out – all that good stuff.”

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