HANCEVILLE – Excitement has been a part of the 2016 Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Northwest Regional Basketball Tournament, even without a Cullman County school getting to the round of 16 for the first time in the 23-year history of the playoff format.
But Saturday morning had one of the biggest surprises in the history of the tournament. The No. 1-ranked Madison Academy Lady Mustangs went down to defeat at the hands of a very determined Lexington Lady Golden Bears team 62-59 in overtime at Tom Drake Coliseum.
The so-called experts had very much penciled in Madison Academy and No. 2-ranked Lauderdale County to fight it out once more for the regional title and a trip to Birmingham for the Final Four.
Lexington had different ideas and Colbert County did too. The Lady Indians were on the verge of upsetting the winner of four consecutive 3A regional crowns. Lauderdale County got control of the game in the fourth quarter with a 17-6 finish and eliminated Colbert County 50-37.
Who will play in the regional championships starting Monday afternoon has been decided in all but one classification.
Class 4A will step into the spotlight for its semifinals Monday with the Danville-West Limestone girls at 9 a.m., Brooks will face Haleyville at 10:30 a.m., the Deshler girls vs. East Lawrence at noon and Deshler takes on Cordova at 1:30 p.m.
The first two champions to be crowned in the 2016 edition of the regional will be Class 1A. R.A. Hubbard and Decatur Heritage girls will be a rematch of Area 15. They play Monday at 3 p.m. That will be followed by Marion County vs. Decatur Heritage at 4:45 p.m. in the 1A varsity division.
On Tuesday, the day begins with 6A going for the championship hardware. Austin and Hartselle girls are from Area 15, with Hartselle trying to pull off its second upset in the tournament.
The Lady Tigers topped No. 7 Athens 61-53 and now get to tangle with the Lady Black Bears for the fourth time this season. No. 5 Austin has won all three matchups, recently getting by the Lady Tigers in the area championship in Decatur.
Lee-Huntsville is trying to repeat in 6A, but Muscle Shoals wants to show the Generals they are a team on the upswing. They play at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Class 7A is a battle of Top 10 powers in the girls’ division with Hazel Green and Hoover at 12:15 p.m., then a Birmingham-metro championship between Hoover and Oak Mountain at 2:15 p.m.
Hoover nipped James Clemens in the semis 55-52 with Oak Mountain pulling out a 43-40 win in the closing seconds over Sparkman.
The 2A division will cap off championship Tuesday. It will be Tanner High School vs. Mars Hill Bible.
The Lady Rattlers ended the run of Red Bay, downing the defending 2A state champion 53-37 on Friday afternoon. Mars Hill had no trouble sending Phil Campbell home by the score of 58-40.
In the varsity championship, both squads are coming off narrow victories. Tanner outlasted Sulligent 51-48 in overtime and Mars Hill had to turn away a pesky Phil Campbell squad 55-52. The title game will be at 5:45 p.m.
Wednesday will be the finale for championship play. Two schools who know each other will get things started at 9 a.m. Lauderdale County and Lexington battle for the 3A girls crown. They are in the same county, separated by about 20 miles.
Madison Academy and Sheffield meet at 10:45 a.m. The Mustangs feature one of the state's top prospects in Josh Langford, who has committed to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State.
Sheffield is a team that can produce points, scoring 127 in a sub-regional win over Oakman and netting 73 on Saturday morning in a victory at the Coliseum against West Morgan.
Class 5A will be Wenonah vs. Ramsay girls from the Birmingham area for the championship at 12:15 p.m., then another matchup of the Magic City as Ramsay and Parker play for the grand prize at 2:15 p.m.
The 4A championships will be at 4 p.m. for the girls then the varsity at 5:45 p.m.
Winners from the Northwest Regional will advance to the Final Four in Birmingham the following week and play the representative of the South Regional inside the Legacy Arena at the BJCC.
For more information about the Northwest Regional Tournament, including a complete schedule, visit http://cullmansense.com/articles/2016/02/17/2016-ahsaa-northwest-regional-basketball-tournament-wallace-state-hanceville-feb.