But they will, however, show up as the No. 1 seeds.
Calhoun County coaches voted the Bulldogs’ girls and boys squads that way Wednesday, putting Saks, who ended the Bulldogs’ three-year run last season, second and third, respectively in the tournament, which begins Jan. 15.
“I think we kind of got caught up in the ruckus last year,” said Anniston girls coach Eddie Bullock of their three-straight title run ending. “We had a pretty good team. But I think we felt like because we received a certain seed that gave us the right to win.
“But I don’t care about where we’re seeded. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. All I care about is how hard we play and whether or not we’re going out there and doing what we need to do.”
Bullock’s Lady Bulldogs rebounded from the early round loss to Alexandria last year and made a run to an area title and trip to Northeast regional final. This year, they’re 15-2 and ranked No. 6 in the Class 4A.
Saks boys coach Jonathan Miller said his team played its best ball the week of the county tournament last year. The Wildcats, currently 10-4, will be aided by several players who will have returned from injury once the tournament tips off.
“It’s a huge advantage for teams from Calhoun County to be able to play on the floor in case you do make it to the regional tournament,” Miller said. “We just want to go out compete, play hard and maybe win a couple games.”
Anniston’s boys are 9-6 but have faced tough competition, playing their usual statewide schedule.
Longtime coach Schuessler Ware said last year’s loss in a tight semifinals game against Saks motivated his team to never let their guard down the rest of the season. They avenged the defeat to Saks in the area tournament final, won the Northeast regional title and made a second straight to the Final 48 in Birmingham.
“At this point, we’re just looking to make progress from game-to-game,” Ware said of his team. “I want to see if we’re in a position to compete against the top teams.”