Boys semifinals preview

Photo by Ty Freeman


Pebblebrook had a losing record last year and won four games two seasons ago, but is now in its first final four. The Falcons are also the only AAAAAA boys team left with no state championships in program history. Facing Pebblebrook in the semifinals is the goliath of Cobb County basketball, Wheeler. Coach Doug Lipscomb’s Wildcats have won five state championships since 1994 and boast arguably the most talented lineup in the state. Juniors Jalen Brown and Daniel Giddens, top recruits in the class of 2015, and senior center Elijah Staley, who signed with Mississippi State’s football team, are just three of the Wildcats’ stars. Norcross and Tift County meet in the other semifinal. Norcross, like Wheeler, owns five state titles, all coming in the last nine years. The Blue Devils are led by senior guard Andre Chatfield and UGA football signee Lorenzo Carter, a 6-foot-6 power forward. Tift County won a state title in 1996 and has dominated Region 1 in recent years. Georgia Tech signee Tadric Jackson is a senior guard who heads the Blue Devils’ attack.



Miller Grove has been the glamour team in the state in recent years. Coach Sharman White’s Wolverines have won five straight state championships and are back in the final four for a seventh straight season. Post players like Tony Parker and UGA’s Donte Williams have been the story in the past for Miller Grove, but this year’s edition is headlined by guards Keith Pinckney and Alterique Gilbert. Going up against the Wolverines is Jenkins, from basketball-mad Savannah. The Warriors are known for their depth, as 18 players have scored for them this season. The other semifinal matchup features Warner Robins and Stephenson. The former is in its first final four in 14 years. The Demons set a school record with 27 wins this year. Stephenson hails from Region 6, the same region as Miller Grove. The Jaguars are built from the inside out, as forwards Montez Sweat and Delmont Walton have starred in the playoffs. Sweat had 23 points and 16 boards in the second round while Walton had 15 points and 13 rebounds.


Class AAAA

Jonesboro is a young team led by one of the most exciting scoring trios in the state. Freshman James Walker Jr. has been outstanding this postseason. The 6-foot-5 wing player totaled 22 points in the quarterfinals after scoring 24 in the second round. Junior Austin Donaldson also finished with 22 points in Thursday’s win over Rutland and Tracey Hector Jr. scored 21. Alexander has its own big three in Mikell Lands-Davis (17), Hassani Gravett (14) and Trae Jones (10), who combined for 31 of Alexander’s 66-49 win over Carrollton in the quarterfinals. Columbia has won five state titles since 2006, and this year’s Eagles team possesses a championship-caliber lineup. Senior Maurice Rivers grabbed 19 points and 22 rebounds and senior Nick Singleton totaled 14 points and 10 boards as the two 6-foot-5 stars fueled a 63-44 quarterfinals victory over Sandy Creek. Westover’s difference-maker is senior C.J. Davis, who stands 6-foot-7 and comes off game-highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds in the semis. Davis anchors the Patriots’ defense that helped Westover outscore Glenn Hills 15-3 in the third quarter on Thursday.


Class AAA

Buford is looking to go at least one step further after losing to Savannah in last year’s Class AAA semifinals. The Wolves, led by senior big man Rakim Lubin, captured the Region 7-AAA title and parlayed into three victories so far in the state tournament. Callaway is a young team loaded with freshmen and sopho- mores, but it still secured a second straight Region 4-AAA championship. Among the Cavaliers’ standouts are freshman Braylon Sanders and sophomores Dre Martin and Joe Brown. Junior guard Terry Godwin provides valuable experience for Callaway. Johnson-Savannah has to venture outside of the friendly confines of the Reaction Chamber, but it knows how to get the job done at a neutral site having captured the 2013 Class AAA state title. The Atom Smashers topped Washington County in Thursday’s quarterfinals despite missing guard Hakeem Coney for the entire first half. Morgan County boasts a well-balanced attack with plenty of size and a stellar point guard in Tookie Brown, who scored 33 points in the team’s quarterfinal victory over Cedar Grove.


Class AA

Vidalia and defending state champion Greater Atlanta Christian navigated to the semifinals with undefeated records. GAC sits in the top 10 national USA Today rankings and faces a Laney team that scored blowout wins the first two rounds before putting together a solid 58-51 win over Pelham. Laney will have to slow down Justin Lewis, Isaiah Wilkins, Cam Boyd, Garrett Covington and the well-oiled machine the Spartans resemble on the hardwood. GAC is outscoring its playoff opponents by nearly 30.7 points per game. Vidalia has reached the final four just five times in program history and the Indians’ 30-0 record is a school-best. Senior point guard Dashon Holloway scored a game-high 21 points in the 80-62 quarterfinals victory over Northeast-Macon. Junior Jordan Black complements Holloway in the backcourt and Terry Jones and Alton McCloud are capable scorers in the post. Calhoun has four players with double-figures scoring averages. Senior Chandler Curtis can create shots while running the point and involving his 6-foot-7 center Keyth Fightmaster and sophomore guards Kaelan Riley and Jireh Wilson in the attack. Curtis’ game-high 20 points in the quarterfinals included four three pointers.


Class A-Private

Whitefield Academy captured the last Class A championship in 2012 before it split into public and private and it has won two titles in the past five years. Longtime head coach Tyrone Johnson is back at the helm following a one-year sabbatical and he – along with players Jesse Byrd, Eric Lockett and Courtney Alexander – have the WolfPack back in business. Calvary Day is coming off a 64-63 upset of top-ranked Greenforest, in which Khaliq Hughes had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Athens Christian fell at this stage of last year’s playoffs, losing to eventual champion Greenforest. The Eagles are led by University of Connecticut commitment Will “Turtle” Jackson, who had 19 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals in his team’s semifinal win. St. Francis succumbed to Greenforest in the 2013 championship game. The Knights have a new lease on life after recovering from a seven-point deficit with 2:30 left in their quarterfinal against Holy Innocents’. St. Francis will look to impose its size on Athens Christian early and often.


Class A-Public

Wilkinson County was the 2013 Class A Public champion and it has captured two state titles in the past three years. The Warriors’ title defense picked up momentum with a blowout of formidable foe Dooly County in the quarters. Antonio Whipple is a force in the paint on both ends and fellow senior Derek Traywick can fill it up on offense. A completely different team from last season, Calhoun County will put Devorris Haynes against Whipple in an intriguing individual matchup while featuring Quenton Taylor on the perimeter. Turner County reached the Class A Public quarterfinals last year and the experience of 2013 is only helping a team now led by juniors and seniors. The Rebels’ guard-heavy lineup features junior Quan Hillmon and senior Quan Williams while senior Antonio Graddic provides a presence in the paint. Hawkinsville, which lost in the second round last year, won’t mind if this game goes down to the wire. The Red Devils lost the Region 4-A championship to Dooly County in double-overtime but beat Seminole County in overtime during round-of-16 action in the state playoffs.


Stephen Black, Ricky Dimon, Brian Jones and Craig Sager II contributed to this report

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply