Class AAAAAA Girls: #2 McEachern vs. #1 Norcross

Photo by Ty Freeman


Region 4, 23-6

Defending champion McEachern and its finals opponent Norcross share the last five state championships in Georgia’s highest classification. It took McEachern one season to rebuild from historic 33-0 state champion- ship run in 2012 as the Indians cruised to the AAAAAA title last March and topped Archer 81-62 in the finals. This year was a much more difficult challenge as the Indians overcame injuries and played one of the toughest schedules in the state to return to Macon. A season-ending knee injury on Dec. 5 sidelined five-star forward Caliya Robinson, one of the most dominant players in the country. Robinson netted 20 points and added 11 rebounds and six blocks in McEachern’s championship victory last year and included a 16-point, 15-rebound, 17-block performance in the second round of the 2014 postseason. With Robinson out, Tennessee-signee Te’a Cooper has stepped up to play an even bigger role this year and her level of success has made her a finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award. Cooper scored 26 in their quarterfinals win over Mountain View and hit the game-winning buzzer-beater in the semifinals to lift the Indians past Archer 59-57. Jada Lewis, Tierra Lindsey and freshman Chanel Wilson have collectively helped McEachern succeed without Robinson by getting it done on both ends of the floor and winning the rebounding battle to get Cooper and the fast-paced offense out and running. In the 68-62 quarterfinals win over Mountain View where Cooper went off for 26 points, Wilson looked mature beyond her years with 17 first half points, including five second quarter three-pointers and she would finish with 22 points, four rebounds and two assists. Lewis struggled scoring but was able to impact the game with four points, five boards, five assists and four steals. The last time these teams faced in the playoffs was the 2012 semifinals and McEachern advanced with a 64-61 win.


Region 7, 28-4

The Blue Devils will be looking for their fourth state title in six seasons on Saturday and have put together a stretch of defensive dominance this postseason that has held opponents to 38 points or less in each of the previous four rounds. Norcross has held opponents under 30 points on eight separate occasions this season. The Blue Devils’ 28-4 record is even more impressive than it appears when you consider the quality of opponent the Gwinnett-based team faced in Georgia’s highest classification. Two of the losses were to out of state opponents and the other two were to region rival Mountain View, a team the Blue Devils handled 50-46 in their third meeting en route to the Region 7 title on Feb. 14. In the semifinals, Norcross faced Parkview, a team that many ranked No. 1 in the state heading into the playoffs, and frustrated the Panthers’ offensive rhythm with a 53-35 victory. Norcross defended the paint and left no easy shots outside as Parkview fell behind 11-2 to start the game and missed their first 11 three-point attempts before finishing the game with just 26 percent shooting from the field. Offensively, the lockdown defense turns into points and the Blue Devils have the ability to slow down the pace of the game and dominate in halfcourt sets. Four of the Blue Devils’ five starters finished in double figures in the semifinals, led by Vash Perry’s 16 points. Tylia Gillespie netted 15, and Allison Johnson and Taylor Mason scored 11 apiece. Norcross can overcome adversity as well. In the quarterfinals, the Blue Devils fell behind Westlake 11-4 at the end of the first quarter and trailed by 10 at the half before closing out a 51-38 victory with a 21-7 scoring edge in the decisive fourth quarter.



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