Region championship loss behind them, Bruins ready for playoffs

Matt Hamilton/Daily Citizen-News

Guard Barrett Upton and the rest of the Northwest Whitfield Bruins are looking at what needs improved after last week's region championship loss to LaFayette High School.

TUNNEL HILL — Coming off a 16-point loss to LaFayette High School in the Region 6-4A championship game, the Northwest Whitfield boys basketball team needed to hit the reset button.

Over the weekend, the team had an open discussion on what went wrong against LaFayette and how they can rectify it before Friday's home matchup with Troup County High School to open the Class 4A state tournament. The boys game follows the girls game, which begins at 6 p.m.

"We talked a little bit like 'What do you guys feel went wrong and what should we have done better?'" Bruins coach Ryan Richards said. "We talked it out in the open a little bit. I think it helps to talk about it and get it out of the way some."

Things like foul trouble and erratic scoring were the primary topics.

"It's not really that we played bad, they just shot really good," junior forward Chris Cunningham said. "And foul trouble hurt us."

"When you get your ball handlers like me and Chris get in foul trouble, somebody's gotta step up," senior guard Barrett Upton added.

After the meeting, the LaFayette loss became history. The Bruins' focus is on No. 3 seed Troup County (14-11) and moving on in the playoffs.

Northwest Whitfield had a day off on Monday to rest and regroup, but now it's playoff time and the second-seeded Bruins (19-9) open the playoffs at home in front of their crowd.

"I think it's gonna be pretty cool," Richards said. "Especially when you got a doubleheader with the girls and the boys, it just brings out a lot of people. We're excited to see how many people show up and support and get a big student section, too. Now I've told them we've had a really good season, sitting at 19 wins. But you can have a great season now if you just win this first game and get kind of rolling into the state playoffs."

The Bruins are 6-2 this season at home and look to keep their winning fortunes against Troup County.

"We took a couple days off to rest and get our bodies healed," Upton said. "We're preparing for Troup County now. They're athletic and we're trying to get our bodies in tip-top shape to run with them."

Preparing for playoff teams is often difficult because opponents are unfamiliar.

"It's a lot of film study," Richards said. "Trying to put the guys in the best situation they can be in. They're a big, strong, athletic team. It's not like we haven't played that type of team before, we just haven't had a lot of those on our schedule this season."

Last year the Bruins advanced to the second round, but fell to Perry High School. This year, the goal is to make it past last year's hump.

"Especially for the seniors, we've got nine of them," Upton said. "We'd like to go farther than we did last year. Just leave it all out there and get to 20 wins. That's our big goal."

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