So much basketball, so little time

The basketball area tournaments have kicked off, and local teams will be looking to cap their seasons off in stellar fashion. (Contributed)

The basketball area tournaments have kicked off, and local teams will be looking to cap their seasons off in stellar fashion. (Contributed)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Reporter

Here we go again. It’s February. The crescendo of high school basketball season is upon us, and we need to know who to pay attention to. It can be easy to get lost in the weeds during this time of the high school basketball season. The regular season ends, there’s a flurry of activity all at once, and then all of the sudden the state tournament is halfway over and no one is sure how anything happened. We are entering this “flurry of activity” phase right now, and this is where the action is.

In Shelby County, there is an incredibly high density of teams poised to make some postseason noise. Let’s take a quick look at some of the teams to watch.

The top boys team in the county has been Spain Park all season, and Jaguars will continue to hold that position going into the area tournaments. Spain Park, currently ranked second in class 7A, does have the unfortunate reality of being in the same area as two-time defending 6A state champion Mountain Brook, who is currently ranked third in 7A.

Both teams will more than likely meet in the area 6 championship game, and will thus both advance to the regional tournament. However, Mountain Brook’s senior-laden roster and the Jaguars heavy reliance on their two sophomore stars Jamal Johnson and Austin Wiley makes for an interesting juxtaposition. Spain Park’s dominant regular season will not be rewarded with a cakewalk to the state tournament. The Jaguars will need to continue to play their best basketball in order to stay alive.

Shelby County is another team in a similar position. The Wildcats currently hold the sixth seed in class 5A, and will play hosts to the area 8 tournament. Talladega is also in area 8, and currently occupies the third seed in the state. Dallas County is in Shelby County’s region and is currently ranked fourth. Only one of those three teams can make it to the state tournament, and Shelby County will be trying to break into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time under coach Torry Brown.

Vincent is the third and final boys team in the county currently harboring a top-10 ranking. The Yellow Jackets sit at 19-9 and are ranked 10th in 2A. Vincent has already punched its’ ticket to the regional tournament, due to being ranked first in a three-team area. The Yellow Jackets will move out of the area by default, and JaCorey Roper and Jace Greene can play with anyone in the state.

While these are the only boys’ teams ranked in the state, Thompson, Helena, Oak Mountain, Montevallo and Pelham are the most well-suited unranked teams to make a statement in postseason play. Briarwood, Chelsea and Westminster School at Oak Mountain could step up and surprise some people as well.

On the girls’ side, the two premier teams in the county are Thompson and Spain Park, both in 7A. Thompson is currently ranked sixth in 7A while Spain Park is ranked 10th. Spain Park will host the area 6 tournament, where they will most likely face an accomplished Mountain Brook team in the area finals before moving on the regional tournament. The last two seasons the Lady Jaguars have appeared in the state tournament and will look to continue that success this year as well.

Thompson is in the same area as perennial power Hoover. The Lady Bucs are currently ranked fifth in the state and are playing host to the area 5 tournament. Thompson and Hoover will most likely meet in the area finals, but only one of them will be able to advance out of the region. The schools split their regular season series this year 1-1, with both teams beating each other on the road.

As the meaty, overwhelming area tournament schedule sets into full swing over the next few days, these are just a few of the teams in Shelby County that could be making headlines in Birmingham in a few short weeks. Keep your eyes peeled, it’s about to get fun.