THOMASVILLE — With the regular season winding down, improvement is the main focus for area basketball teams, no matter how the season has unfolded.

The Thomasville boys are enjoying an outstanding season at 19-2 and lead Region 1-AA with an 8-1 mark. Still, the Bulldogs have not played their best basketball of late and can ill-afford a slip up with three teams bunched behind them.

“The last few games, we’ve been somewhat sluggish,” Thomasville coach Tyrone Kellogg said. “We need to try and get to where we are playing each game the same and not playing down to our competition.

“The way we look at it is we have 25 practice games to get ready for the playoffs and I think they’re ready for the tournament. This is the purpose of the season and this is what we’re playing for.”

The Bulldogs play at Early County tonight. The Bobcats are tied with Albany for third in the region at 6-3. Mitchell-Baker is 7-2.

The Cairo Syrupmaids are also viewing the last week of the regular season from atop the region standings, tied with Worth County in the Region 1-AAA lead at 6-1.

Cairo coach Lucy Baker also sees room for progress from the Syrupmaids.

“We’re still just working on getting better and the only way is from the bottom up,” Baker said. “We’re going back to the basics.”

The region tournament is hosted by the top girls seed, which means Cairo still has a shot. However, Worth County has the inside track after defeating the Syrupmaids 68-50 last Friday.

While the Syrupmaids and Bulldogs have thrived, the Thomas County Central girls basketball team has undergone a youth movement this year that has left them near the bottom of the Region 1-AAAA standings.

The Jackets got even younger when senior guard Latasha Weatherspoon, Central’s lone returning starter, injured her left knee Jan. 3 against Colquitt County.

With Weatherspoon returning Saturday in a win against Thomasville, the Jackets are starting to come together with the region tournament just around the corner.

“We’ve been competitive within the region,” coach Jenny Johnson said. “Now we just need to get some confidence built up.”

The Jackets are fourth out of five teams in the region, ahead of only Lee County. However, Tuesday night Central lost by only three points to Ware County, the region leader at 5-0.

Weatherspoon’s return has Central rounding into postseason form. The Thomasville girls, though, are still missing two key cogs in senior Jillian Crawford and freshman India Spear for academic reasons. Bulldog coach Vanisa Brown said both players should be back prior to the start of playoffs, but Thomasville has been improving in their absence.

Still, their loss and a brief one-game suspension of senior guard Janay Henderson has cost Thomasville a shot at the top seed for the Region 1-AA tournament. The Bulldogs are 5-4, tied with Albany and trailing 6-2 Early County.

“We really haven’t played that well and we’ve had other setbacks,” Brown said. “I really wanted to be No. 1 and that was one of our goals.”

The Cairo boys have experienced an up-and-down season as well. Since the Syrupmakers defeated Westover on Jan. 17, Cairo has dropped two straight to fall to 3-4 in the region. Coach Isiah Chance said his team needs to find more offense alongside sophomore Terrance Bowman to get on a roll for the tournament.

“We’ve got to find ways to score the ball a little bit more,” Chance said. “And basketball is a funny game. You go through that sometimes where you can’t make plays.”

The Central boys have also struggled to find consistent scoring. The Jackets are winless in the region and are just 1-__ on the season. The Jackets have lost star junior Jamar Moore to transfer and have also lost junior guard Dedrick Mickens and junior forward Dontavia Bogan. Those losses have left Central with a bunch of young players for coach Reginald Knight.

Sophomores Chris and Eric Monroe and Demetrius Mickens have all started for the Jackets this season.

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