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High school basketball: North Georgia All-Star Classic features some different looks for 2023
Chestatee's Riley Black (15) drives to the basket against Griffin in the Class 4A state quarterfinals Feb. 28, 2023 in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

For more than a decade, the North Georgia All-Star Classic has grown into one of the one of the premier regional postseason all-star basketball events in the state.

That growth continues, and is one of several new features as the 12th annual edition of the event Saturday at Gainesville High.

The biggest involves a feature of growth, namely the expansion of the number of northeastern Georgia counties from which the pool of players were selected from to participate.

Originally, the event included players from Hall and Gwinnett counties, and gradually expanded to include players from other northeastern counties like Lumpkin, Dawson, Jackson, Madison, Towns, Banks, Habersham, Oconee, Walton, White and Forsyth.

“We’ve added Fannin County, Hart County, Rabun County, Gilmer County,” said event director Adrian Penland. “So, we expanded out a little bit (this year).”

Another change for this year is a bit of scaling back of the event, with the boys and girls underclassmen games being eliminated, leaving the boys and girls junior and senior games.

“The last two or three years, we did underclassmen games for the freshmen and sophomores together,” Penland said. “Last year, it was just so hard because (AAU) travel season starts up around (this time of year), and we had a bunch of kids playing travel basketball. … Maybe we’ll come back to it in the near future, but right now, we’ll go with (just) the juniors and seniors.”

One thing that won’t change is the caliber of players and coaches participating.

Chestatee’s Riley Black was one of participants in the girls underclassmen game a year ago, and earned the game’s Most Valuable Player honors.

The 5-foot-8 guard returns to play in the junior game Saturday, and is eagerly looking forward to playing with a new group of teammates, but a very familiar coach.

“I’m excited to play because my coach, (Chestatee) Coach (Sutton) Shirley is coaching (the team), which is super awesome,” said Black, who helped lead the Lady War Eagles to the Region 8-4A championship and the program’s first spot in the state Elite Eight this season. “We’ve (also) got a great group of girls on our team, some I’ve played against, some I have not played against. So I’m excited just to hang out with them for the day and play with them.”

Black is one of 15 Hall County players set to participate in the event as of press time.

She will be joined by Lakeview Academy’s Kivana Bogne on her junior girls team coached by Shirley that will face an opposing team that includes Cherokee Bluff’s Emma Reynolds.

Meanwhile, Cherokee Bluff’s Logan Holmes set to play on a junior boys team coach by Bears coach Josh Travis and Chestatee’s Colton Wilbanks playing the opposing team.

Hall County individual playing in the senior all-star game include Gainesville’s Keke Jones and Keidra Young, East Hall’s Maleah Harrison and Cherokee Bluff’s Mia Williams in the girls game, plus West Hall’s Owen Jenkins and Isaiah Holder, Cherokee Bluff’s Carlos Marlow, Flowery Branch’s Jackson Burney and Tyleek Worth and East Hall’s Levi Holtzclaw for the boys game.

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