There are two teams remaining in the Georgia state tournament in classifications 2A-7A that are four-seeds. The Lithonia Bulldogs are one of those two and are the only team in those classifications with a losing record (13-16). Pardon the Bulldogs if they don’t mind you overlooking them because of their sub-500 record, ask Villa Rica and Riverdale.
Head Coach Wallace Corker has his Bulldogs in the quarterfinals because they did not dodge anybody when it came to scheduling this season. In addition to the tough schedule the Bulldogs only played six homes games all season.
“We set it up the way we did on purpose,” Corker said.” We knew we had a new team coming back and wanted to get them experience against good competition outside of the region.”
The Bulldogs finished fourth in region 5-5A which contains all Dekalb County (Ga) schools. Dekalb County has won a basketball championship either boys or girls for 14 consecutive seasons across multiple classifications.
The region schedule saw the Bulldogs split two games against Columbia (region runner up; Sweet 16, five-time state champs), drop two games to Southwest Dekalb (Sweet 16) and drop three games to Miller Grove (region champs, Elite Eight, seven-time state champs). The Bulldogs also faced improving region opponents Chamblee (split two games) and Arabia Mountain (won 2 of 3 games) that did not make the playoffs.
Lithonia took on all comers running the floor against 7A schools McEachern (Elite Eight) and Roswell (lost in first round), 6A Heritage-Conyers (lost in first round) and Douglas County (did not make playoffs), 5A contenders Eagles Landing (lost in Sweet 16) , Fayette County (Elite Eight) along with quick rising New Hampstead-who loss to Buford in the Sweet 16 on a buzzer-beater. 3A noteables Jenkins (Elite Eight) and Johnson-Savannah (lost in Sweet 16 to Pace Academy), and 1A private St. Francis (Elite Eight).
Roswell, Douglas County and Jenkins were the only games Lithonia won. That is as good of a scheduling resume as your are going to find for a team that did not play an out-of-state opponent this season.
“We knew within our region it would come down to winning one game to make the playoffs so we wanted to prepare the guys for the playoffs and compete,” Corker said.
Lithonia has made the semifinals the past two seasons however this team is different from those teams. The Bulldogs only have ten players and all ten play. Robert Hatchett III and Cortez Robinson provide the senior leadership as both played key roles on those semifinal teams. Zion Cain, Christian Parker and Sydarius Stinson also play valuable roles for Lithonia.
“This team is more team oriented, play well together and the guys really like each other, we haven’t had any issues all season,” Corker said. “They are committed to getting better and our parents are supportive.”
Hatchett III has big game experience for Lithonia in both football and basketball. In football Hatchett threw the game-winning touchdown pass on a Hail Mary against Arabia Mountain to put the Bulldogs in the playoffs. In basketball he did it again to Arabia Mountain this time with a game-winning layup in the region tournament that put the Bulldogs in the state playoffs.
“We joked with him that (Arabia Mountain) does not want to see him anymore,” Corker said.
Nobody may want to see Lithonia if they just simply look at their record.
Up next for the Bulldogs is a trip to Cedar Shoals (24-4) Wednesday in the quarterfinals.