The Bears (8-12 overall, 5-3 subregion) sit in third place in the subregion and have a three-game lead over their nearest competitors. Jonesboro (17-3, 8-0) is in first, followed by Riverdale (11-8, 6-2) in second. Forest Park (8-9, 2-5), North Clayton (7-11, 2-5) and Lovejoy (3-12, 2-5) are tied for the fourth and final spot for the region tournament berth.
A Griffin win on Friday against Lovejoy would secure the third-place spot for the Bears in the region tournament, but Griffin coach Calvin Sinkfield said his team is looking for more than third place.
“Our plan is to win out. One game at a time, one quarter, one possession at a time,” he said. “I want to push for second place.”
Griffin possibly could move into a tie for second place next week when it hosts second-place Riverdale on Jan. 29. The Bears played the Raiders twice this season — at the Peach State Classic on Dec. 27 and at Riverdale on Jan. 4 — and fell both times.
But Sinkfield said his team has developed since the last meeting against Riverdale, and he is confident the Bears can finish the regular season in second place.
“We’re getting better and better each day in practice. We’re competing, and that was my major concern — learning how to compete in the games,” he said. “Before we just played, we didn’t know what it was to compete.”
Sinkfield said rematch games against Southwest Atlanta Christian and Jonesboro demonstrate his team’s growth. The Bears lost by 16 points to Southwest Atlanta Christian on Dec. 1 but closed the gap to two points in an overtime loss on Dec. 29. Jonesboro defeated Griffin by 37 points on Dec. 4 at Griffin but by nine points on Jan. 15 at Jonesboro.
That turn-around, combined with the Bears winning four of their last five games, have Sinkfield and his team confident they can make an impact in the region tournament.
“They think they can play and beat anybody,” he said. “Anytime you step onto the floor you have to believe you can win, and now they’re believing they can win.”
The Lady Bears (11-7, 6-2) currently hold the second-place position in a close battle for the top four spots in the subregion.
Jonesboro (15-4, 7-1) owns the top spot with Griffin, North Clayton (12-5, 5-2) and Riverdale (6-8, 5-3) following. Griffin split the regular season games against Jonesboro — winning 55-39 on Dec. 4 and falling 55-43 on Jan. 15.
Griffin can secure a berth in the region tournament with a win against Lovejoy (3-9, 1-5) on Friday, but Griffin coach June Barrow said the biggest challenge for her team right now is making sure they play with consistency throughout the regular season.
“We like where we are, but our emphasis is that we have to keep working harder because teams are getting better,” she said. “People are beating people who weren’t supposed to be beaten.”
Barrow added she wants to make sure her team does not lose focus as it finishes the regular season with games against the three bottom teams in the subregion — Lovejoy, Forest Park (6-11, 1-5) and Mt. Zion-Jonesboro (7-13, 1-7).
“We don’t want any surprises in the end,” she said. “We want to be one of those who stays playing consistently and wins consistently.”