Area tournaments get under way tonight

Dexter Hood and the Paul W. Bryant boys, unbeaten at home, host the Class 5A, Area 7 tournament this week. (Photo by Erin Nelson)

TUSCALOOSA | West Alabama basketball teams in the Alabama High School Athletic Association begin area play this week.

Areas that have five girls teams will have an elimination game tonight. At Sunshine High School in Newbern, John Essex plays A.L. Johnson at 6 in the Class 1A, Area 4 tournament. The winner advances to face Sunshine at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Berry will host the Class 1A, Area 8 tournament. South Lamar plays Hubbertville at 5 this afternoon for the chance to meet Berry at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinal round.

Most of the boys tournaments start Friday, but two games involving West Alabama teams are set for Tuesday. John Essex faces A.L. Johnson at 6 p.m. in the Class 1A, Area 4 tournament at Sunshine. The winner will play Linden at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Pickens County High School in Reform is the host for the Class 1A, Area 8 boys tournament. Berry will face Hubbertville at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The winner plays Pickens County at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Pickens County won the Class 2A title in 2010 and in 2011 with Russ Wallace as the head coach. Patrick Plott guided the Tornadoes to the Class 1A title last season. Wallace, who spent the 2012 season at Buckhorn, returned to West Alabama to coach the Bibb County boys and girls team. Bibb County will host the Class 4A, Area 7 boys tournament.

Other West Alabama schools hosting tournaments include Greensboro, Class 3A boys and girls; American Christian Academy, Class 3A boys and girls; Winfield, Class 3A girls; Sumter Central, Class 5A boys and girls; Central, Class 5A girls; Paul W. Bryant, Class 5A boys; and Hillcrest, Class 6A boys and girls. Scott Suttles coached the Hillcrest boys to state championships in 2008 and 2011.

The Greensboro boys won their second straight Class 3A championship last year. Earlando Courtney coached the Raiders to their first championship. Craig Williams, now an assistant coach for the Central boys, was the head coach last season. Marty Everett is Greensboro’s coach this season.

The Greensboro Lady Raiders, coached by Frances Dunn, reached the Class 3A championship game last season and placed second to Lauderdale County. In Class 1A, the Holy Spirit Lady Titans advanced to the title game in Birmingham but lost to McIntosh. Jim Holland, who coached the Central girls for three decades, is in his first season coaching the Holy Spirit girls. Central won its area title for the second straight second under the direction of second-year coach Michael Rivers.

The Paul W. Bryant boys, coached by Shon Peck-Love, closed the regular season Friday and celebrated senior night with a 65-38 victory over Pickens County. Bryant (25-3) is undefeated at home for the second straight season.

"I thought this was an important game leading into the area tournament," Peck-Love said. "Hopefully, we’re going into the area tournament on a good note."