THOMASVILLE — When two Brookwood players collided in practice Monday, their bodies were not the only thing to take a hit.

After the collision knocked freshman guard Blair Austin out of the GISA Region 3-AA tournament, the Warriors’ title hopes suffered a blow as well. Brookwood (12-5, 5-3) opens against Valwood at 5:30 p.m. today at SGA. The Brookwood girls play Tiftarea at 4 p.m. After running into junior forward Ashton Thomas, Austin is out of action this week with bleeding in his thigh. Brookwood coach Brad Piazza said the quick point guard may not be available for the state playoffs next week, either.

“He was our leading scorer in transition,” Piazza said.

Austin’s absence leaves an opportunity for senior Santiago Romo or junior Lee Hopkins to step into the lineup. Hopkins provided Brookwood with a lift against SGA on Friday with seven points.

“We’ve got two or three guys who can step in and know the (point guard position),” Piazza said. “We can look at it one of two ways, it can be a built-in excuse to go and not play well or we can suck it up and deal with it.”

Brookwood will need its best effort against Valwood, a team that throttled the Warriors earlier this season. The Valiants handled Brookwood with ease in a 53-15 rout on Jan. 10. After that defeat, Brookwood moved from its normal man-to-man defense to a zone against Valwood on Jan. 27. The defensive change caused the Valiants some troubles in Brookwood’s 52-40 win.

“They’ve got four guys that can hurt you and it’s tough to keep them from scoring,” Piazza said. “We just don’t want them to be able to catch and shoot that 15-footer.”

The Brookwood girls (15-8, 5-3) were scuffling toward the finish of the regular season with consecutive late losses to Fullington Academy and Georgia Christian. However, the Warriors turned up the intensity against SGA on Friday, winning 53-41.

“We’ve been really stressing about keeping our composure,” Brookwood coach Todd Thomas said. “Friday, we played with composure the entire game and kept our intensity from the start to the finish. It may have been our best game.

“If we can continue to play like that, I like our chances against anybody.”

Brookwood and Tiftarea split its two meetings this season, with the Warriors winning 52-48 on Jan. 24 and the Panthers winning 54-47 on Jan. 6. Thomas said the key will be slowing Tiftarea’s interior game.

“They have probably the strongest inside post game in the region,” Thomas said, adding that the Warriors have spent the week working on interior help defense.

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