These horses are rounding the quarter-pole and headed home.
While not necessarily of the equine variety, area basketball teams are hoping to finish several lengths ahead of competitors, thus avoiding stress associated with a photo finish.
Now in the final two weeks of the regular season, a common refrain is uttered from the mouths of coaches on the Grand Strand — “Every game counts.”
On some occasions, that notion can easily be muted by players and others, placing value on games based on opponents and poll rankings. A bevy of local squads can ill-afford to ignore the details this time of year, though, each win or lose playing a significant role in whether they’ll participate in this year’s playoffs or be watching them from the bleachers.
A slight breakdown of how leagues with Grand Strand squads currently sit:
Region VI-5A Boys: West Florence and Sumter have been the class of this league from the start. So one can’t complain that the two best squads in Region VI-5A will battle for its crown Friday night.
Conway currently sits in third. Though losers of two of their last three games, the Tigers can claim a playoff spot with a victory over South Florence on Friday night.
A Socastee win will also punch its postseason ticket, likely snuffing out Carolina Forest’s playoff hopes. Conversely, a Panthers victory will give it a leg up on the final spot guaranteed courtesy of Region VI-5A.
Wins in each of their final two games will do the trick for Carolina Forest. The Panthers can also get in with a win over Socastee on Friday night, along with a Braves loss to Sumter in their season finale on Tuesday.
South Florence has been eliminated.
Region VI-5A Girls: With three games remaining, Conway has a two-game cushion. The Tigers can clinch an outright Region VI-5A title with wins in two of their next three games.
Rival Carolina Forest happens to be their nearest competition. It is the only squad left in the league with a shot at the top spot, though the Panthers’ hopes are largely dependent on how Conway fares down the home stretch.
Socastee can also claim a playoff berth, possibly as early as Tuesday night.
Region VII-4A Boys: This conference could be decided as early as Tuesday night, Wilson taking on second-place North Myrtle Beach.
The Chiefs have a sliver of hope in regard to winning Region VII-4A, needing to take care of business in each of its final three games — including the aforementioned matchup with the Tigers, the top-ranked team in Class 4A. Still, that may not put North Myrtle Beach over the top, then forced to sweat out a tiebreaker scenario.
Myrtle Beach can claim a playoff berth as early as Tuesday night against St. James. Meanwhile, the Sharks’ playoff hopes will likely hinge upon their result against Marlboro County on Friday night.
Region VII-4A Girls: Myrtle Beach can clinch the league as early as Tuesday, with a win over St. James in addition to Wilson beating North Myrtle Beach.
The Chiefs have a glimmer of hope when it comes to winning Region VII-4A, needing to take care of business in each of its final three games. It also would require the Seahawks losing each of their games down the stretch — including their meeting Feb. 9 in each team’s regular season finale.
With a win, Wilson would clinch a playoff berth. A Myrtle Beach victory in any of its final three games would end their hopes of a Region VI-4A crown.
St. James’ postseason hopes likely hinge upon its matchup Friday night against Marlboro County.
Region VI-3A Boys: One thing is known about this league — Dillon, Lake City, Loris and Waccamaw will represent it in the playoffs.
What isn’t known, however, is where the squads will be slotted come playoff time. Dillon currently sits atop the conference with one loss to its credit, but each of the other three squads in the mix are only a game behind.
Region VI-3A Girls: Loris has the inside track in regard to a Region VI-3A crown, sitting atop the league with a 6-0 mark going into play Tuesday night.
Dillon is right on the Lions’ heels, though, with a 5-1 record in conference play. It is likely the meeting between the teams on Feb. 6 will loom large in deciding a region champion.
Waccamaw and Georgetown each have a shot at earning one of Region VI-3A’s remaining playoff spots.
Region VII-2A Boys: With injuries up and down its lineup to begin league play, the thought of potentially playing for a Region VII-2A title was a distant one for Carvers Bay.
But with four games remaining, the Bears — should they win out — will earn a conference championship.
It won’t be easy, though, taking on Kingstree, Johnsonville, Mullins and Andrews.
Region VII-2A Girls: Carvers Bay girls still have a shot at a playoff berth.
Region VI-A Girls: Green Sea Floyds sits atop Region VI-A with four games remaining. The math is simple — win out, and you claim a league championship.