The four-week process to crown state high school basketball champions opens this week with region tournaments across South Georgia.

To follow your favorite area teams, you'll probably have to get in your car to go watch.

Play begins tonight in Dawson, where Region 3-AA will have two play-in games. Valwood's boys will play Crisp Academy at 8 p.m. today.

The tournament continues through Friday in Dawson. Georgia Christian's boys are the highest-seeded team among area schools. The Generals are the No. 1 seed, and will play the Valwood-Crisp winner at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Girls teams from Georgia Christian and Valwood play Tuesday.

The Region 1-AAAAA tournament opens Thursday in Moultrie -- with a twist. Taking advantage of a little-used rule awarding an unbeaten region champion a bye from the tournament, Tift County (24-0) earns Region 1-AAAAA's No. 1 spot in the state tournament and will not play this week.

Additionally, second-seeded Coffee (21-3) gets a bye into Saturday's boys final.

The "best of the rest" tournament opens Thursday with all four Valdosta-area teams in action. Valdosta High plays the first two games (girls at 4 vs. Tift County and boys at 5:30 p.m. vs. Colquitt County), Lowndes High the last two (girls at 7 and boys at 8:30 p.m., both vs. Lee County).

Thursday's winners will also advance to next week's state tournament.

The girls tournament will have all six schools involved, with No. 1 Coffee and No. 2 Colquitt County getting byes into Friday's semifinals. Those two teams, plus Thursday's winners, will also advance to next week's state tournament.

Region 2-AA: The closest basketball to Valdosta this week is Tuesday in Nashville, where Berrien High will host four first-round games. Berrien and Cook's boys and Brooks and Berrien's girls will play Tuesday.

The tournament moves to Blackshear Thursday, where Cook's girls are the No. 3 seed and Brooks County's boys are the No. 4 seed.

Region 1-A: There are some intriguing first-round matches, beginning Tuesday night in Pelham. Echols County's boys meet Lanier County in one of three games. On Wednesday night in Pelham, No. 4 Echols County plays No. 5 Clinch County at 5 p.m. Only the winners in those games will finish high enough to advance to next week's state tournament.

The tournament moves to Pearson Friday.

For a complete listing of area tournament brackets, please see page 3B.

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