For the first time since 1995, the Banks County boys' basketball team finds itself in the Elite Eight of the state playoffs. 

The Leopards (25-4) survived Butler's fourth-quarter rally Feb. 20 to advance to the Class AA Elite Eight. Now, all that stands between the Leopards and the Class AA Final Four is the Chattooga Indians (23-6). 

The Elite Eight matchup takes place Wednesday night (Feb. 26) at 6:30 p.m. in Homer. The Leopards have held home-court advantage throughout the state playoffs.

The winner advances to the Final Four to play Therrell or Washington County Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. The Class AA Final Four is being played at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville. 

"Chattooga is a different animal," head coach Mike Cleveland said about Chattooga. "(Chattooga is) athletic and can shoot the ball extremely well. We have to change the game plan a little bit defensively. We have to do a good job of covering shooters and getting hands in their faces. Chattooga presents a different challenge.

"They're good. You get to this point in the playoffs and every team that's here is really good."

Banks County is sticking to its same routine as it did the opening two rounds. The team took several days off after those two games before getting back in the gym. The Leopards got back to practice on Monday to not break the routine. 

The Leopards are winners of nine in a row heading into the Elite Eight. Chattooga is winners of 13 of its last 14 games. 

Even though part of the game plan may change vs. Chattooga, Cleveland is quick to tell you the whole plan won't change, even on defense. 

"You can't let things surprise you," he said, "and for us, on defense, we play the zone and that's what we do. We may change it a little bit. We are just who we are. That makes it easier in our preparation."

Another aspect to the Elite Eight being at home for the Leopards is the excitement that is building. 

"This is exciting. I think the community is excited," Cleveland said. "Social media has been filled with things. I'm so excited for the players, the community and everyone that's involved. It has been a while since this program has been in this position." 


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