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February 17, 2014

NORTHWEST REGIONAL TOURNEY PREVIEW: Five of state’s six No. 1 girls teams set to take stage at Wallace State

CULLMAN — With Holly Pond, Cold Springs, Cullman and Good Hope all routinely in the mix for regional and state titles on the girls’ side of prep hoops, most in Cullman County are accustomed to seeing high-class basketball come February and the start of the Northwest Regional Tournament at Wallace State.

Throw in five of the six No. 1 ranked girls teams in the state and it gets downright phenomenal.

Twenty-four girls teams will take the floor of Wallace State’s Tom Drake Coliseum starting Tuesday, but only six will earn berths to the coveted Final 48 Tournament in Birmingham.

The annual event will begin with Class 6A and 1A, followed by 5A and 2A on Wednesday and 3A and 4A on Thursday. The championship matchups are slated for Friday and Saturday.

Here’s a quick glance at the field:

Class 6A

% No. 1 Sparkman (30-2) vs. Hoover (17-13), Tuesday at 9 a.m.

% Bessemer City (14-6) vs. Austin (24-10), Tuesday at noon

% Sparkman: It’s been another banner year for the Senators. They’ve won at least 15 contests by 20-plus points in their blistering 2013-14 campaign. Sparkman — paced by star senior Alexis Jennings — is making its 11th straight regional appearance. The Senators fell to Hoover in the 2013 regional finale 47-33 — their only loss of the season.

% Hoover: The two-time defending 6A state champions are back and looking to make it a three-peat. The Bucs won four in a row to close the season and build some momentum. However, they will be without show-stopping center Marqu’es Webb, who has since moved on to Vanderbilt.

% Bessemer City: The Tigers turned a mediocre season into something positive late with an area tournament crown and a 54-42 sub-regional win over Jackson-Olin to qualify for a spot in the Northwest Regionals.

% Austin: The Black Bears came on strong toward the end of the regular season, parlaying that success into an area tourney crown with a 45-31 win over James Clemens and an upset over No. 4 Hazel Green 41-31 to pave its way to Wallace State.

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