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In two regular-season meetings this season, the Banks County Leopards felt the sting of defeat from one of Class AA’s most formidable teams in Elbert County; however, it was the third meeting that meant the most and the third time proved to be a charm for the Leopards.
Banks County (24-4) slowed down Elbert County to claim the program’s second-straight region championship. The Leopards will have home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the Class AA state playoffs, which start next Saturday. The opponent is still to be determined.
“You win games and championships as a team,” head coach Mike Cleveland said after the win. “One person doesn’t do it, so I’m proud of this whole group.
“Proud of this coaching staff. I’m proud of this community; great place to be.”
Many of the same pieces from last year’s team carried over to this year’s, but Cleveland admitted the style of play had to be different.
“Back-to-back (region titles) tells me that we’re as good as anyone in northeast Georgia right now and that’s where we want this program to be,” Cleveland said. “We don’t shy away from competition. We think competition is good for us and we’re not going anywhere.”
Dylan Orr, who made his presence known on the glass and in the paint, called this region championship “huge.”
“Feels great going back-to-back,” he said. “It’s never been done in school history, so it’s a special one.”
Since the team’s last loss, which came at home to Elbert County, Orr said the group “caught fire.”
“We had energy going, because we knew what was on the line,” he added. “This is what we’ve been preparing for all season long and the preseason when we’ve been working for it and it was finally go time and we stepped up to the plate.”
For more on the playoff preview and Friday night’s region championship, read this week’s edition of the Banks County News.