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Region schedules give teams fresh start

Natchez High School’s Dearius Griffin goes up for a shot over Brandon High School’s Tray Lawson during Friday night’s game. Griffin scored the game-winning shot for the Bulldogs in a key region matchup. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School boys basketball team’s 49-48 home win against Brandon High School Friday did more than just add a W to the team’s schedule.

The win gave the hometown Bulldogs a 1-1 record in region play. Though NHS is just a game over .500 overall at 9-8, it’s the conference record that Bulldog fans will be watching from here on out.

“Right now, these games are the most important ones on your schedule,” NHS boys assistant coach Davis Haywood said. “You try to build up all season long leading up to (region) play.”

Area teams are now in the heart of their conference schedule. Since conference results determine playoff seedings, there’s sometimes a different mindset on how to approach conference games as opposed to non-conference games. Haywood said the best way to prepare for region games is with a strong non-region schedule.

“You definitely want to play teams that made the playoffs last year and have a lot of guys returning,” Haywood said.

Trinity Episcopal Day School girls basketball coach Chuck Bauerle also said non-district games are meant to help prepare his team for district play. He said the mindset for district games is different, since there’s more riding on the outcomes than there is with non-district games.

“Your mindset is, you’re playing to win your conference, or district, because the ultimate goal is to get into (the postseason),” Bauerle said.

The Lady Saints are currently winless on the season, but they could still hypothetically get into the playoffs if they play well in their district. Bauerle said that reality can help teams that may have struggle before district play starts.

“The comfort is that the season isn’t over and we’re still playing in district,” Bauerle said. “Whether or not we can compete at the level of ACCS, Brookhaven Academy and Columbia Academy has yet to be proven, but even in football, if you play a tough schedule and go 1-4 but win district, then everything is equal.”

In Louisiana, non-district games actually do count for something, thanks to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s power point system. Vidalia High School boys basketball coach Robert Sanders said a team gets points for beating a strong opponent and points for whichever opponents that stronger team beat.

Even though first- and second-place finishers in district get automatic postseason berths, Sanders said power points are what ultimately affect seeding. Games against out-of-state teams don’t do anything for power point rankings.

“District games are more important, but regular games help put you in the playoffs as well,” Sanders said.

Even though all Louisiana games count, Sanders said there’s still slightly more of an emphasis on winning district games, even though ideally the mindset should be the same every time his team takes the court.

“We can win a district championship no matter what we’ve done prior to that,” Sanders said. “At the same time, if you haven’t done anything record-wise, you may get a low seed. There’s a little bit of a difference, but you need to approach them all the same, especially Louisiana games.”