As region tournament play in high school basketball nears, let’s take a look at some of the favorites and potential dark horses in each classification. It has been another exciting year of action packed basketball and I’ll do my best to shed some light on what has happened this season and what to look forward to as the nets get cut in March.
Georgia’s largest classification has been home to one of the biggest slobber knocker regions in the state. Region 7 has had a must-see slate all season long. Collins Hill (17-6, 7-5) was sitting pretty a few weeks in after new head coach Ty Baumgardner successfully installed his system, but No. 4 Norcross (20-3, 11-1) has roared ahead of the pack and are riding an 11-game win streak. Ricky Madison and Rayshaun Hammonds lead one of the state’s tallest rosters. Duluth (17-6, 8-4) has played exceptionally well and may play the spoiler in the region tourney. In Region 6, Alpharetta (19-4, 16-0) and Lambert (18-5, 13-3) pose threats that could knock off nearly anybody. The Raiders rely on UNC-Wilmington-commit Devontae Cacok and Jaylon Gamble to battle inside while the Longhorns have a plethora of guards who can lead the team in scoring any given night. Wheeler (21-2 14-0), the No. 1 team in the state, resides in Region 5. Shembari Phillips (Tennessee) and No. 2 ranked Jaylen Brown believe the road to state runs through Holt Rd. No. 3 Pebblebrook (17-5, 11-0) is extremely dangerous and has played a monstrous national schedule. Last year’s state champs, No. 2 Tift County (22-1, 6-0) has flown under the radar in south Georgia and are prepared to defend its title.
No. 1 Miller Grove (21-3, 13-0) is the odds on favorite to make it seven straight state titles. Alterique Gilbert is a true leader and a defensive stalwart. No. 2 McIntosh (23-0, 16-0) is the only undefeated left and relies on the versatile Jordan Lyons and Dishon Lowery to wipe out opponents. Head coach Markus Hood once again has No. 3 Allatoona (22-2, 17-0) clicking on all cylinders in Region 5 using a balanced scoring attack. A potential dark horse is Apalachee (17-6, 9-3). Junior guard Kamar Baldwin is a top player in the state averaging over 27 points and 10 rebounds a night. The Wildcats have already knocked off No. 4 Gainesville (20-2, 10-1) and Mississippi State-commit D’Marcus Simonds once this year.
No. 1 Jonesboro (23-1, 14-0) is as tough as they come and are riding a 22-game winning streak. M.J. Walker is a five-star sophomore that ignites the Cardinals’ offense. No. 2 Johnson (22-0, 6-0) might be small in the frontcourt, but the scoring combo of Rod English (19.6) and Ty Cockfield (29.2) make them one of the most exciting teams to watch. Wins over Class A powers North Cobb Christian (15-8, 10-0), and No. 5 Whitefield Academy (16-8, 8-2) along with signature victories over No. 4 Gainesville, Apalachee, and Buford (13-11, 6-1) have the Knights believing a deep run in state is more probable than possible. No. 5 Carrollton (20-2, 8-0) behind big man Montae Glenn will likely pose issues throughout the tournament. One sleeper who may feel disrespected about not being ranked, is Heritage (21-3, 12-1). The Generals’ 21 wins is the most by a team to not be ranked.
Two schools figure to be a cut above the rest right now as No. 1 Laney (22-1, 10-0) and No. 2 Jenkins (20-3, 11-0) standout as powerhouses. After dropping its first game of the season to Class A’s No. 1 St. Francis (20-3, 10-0) 67-64, Laney has gone undefeated including an 11 point win over Jenkins. Defending champs No. 4 Morgan County (17-7, 11-0) and Tookie Brown have found their groove and look to make another deep run. The Saints of No. 3 Cedar Grove (16-3, 7-1) are dangerous with Jacara Cross leading the team in points and rebounds. Christopher Fredrick and Kenneth Lewis give Coach James Martin a reliable backcourt night in and night out. The Saints have already beaten Gainesville by 19 and fell to Miller Grove by just four.
After rallying to beat No. 3 Holy Innocents’ (19-4, 9-3), No. 1 Pace Academy (21-2, 12-0) continues to look like the team to beat behind Wendell Carter Jr. and Elijah Holifield. Reggie Reid leads No. 7 Harlem (20-3, 9-2) and nearly averages a triple-double, as the Bulldogs will look to put Harlem, GA on the map.
No. 2 Greenforest Christian (19-1, 10-0), No. 3 Athens Christian (22-0, 11-0), and No. 6 Treutlen (20-1, 12-0) might have the best chances of dethroning No. 1 St. Francis. No. 5 Whitefield Academy has been the only team to challenge St. Francis thus far this season with losses of eight points and five points.