Chestatee vs. Blessed Trinity
When: 7:30 tonight
Records: Chestatee (22-7); Blessed Trinity (26-3)
Seeds: Chestatee No. 3 Region 7-AAA; Blessed Trinity No. 2 Region 5-AAA
Coaches: Chestatee, Russ Triaga. Blessed Trinity, Brian Marks.
Key players: Chestatee, SG Parker Smith (6-3, Sr.); SG Branden Jovaag (6-0, Jr.); SF JoJo Sweet (6-0, Sr.). Blessed Trinity, PG Jordan Callahan (5-11, Sr.); SG Tyler Cerone (5-9, Sr.); PF Ryan Aquino (6-7, Sr.).
Outlook: Smith’s reward for scoring his 2,000th career point in the War Eagles’ win against Gainesville during the Region 7-AAA third-place game is a matchup with fifth-ranked Blessed Trinity out of Region 5-AAA.
On paper, this game has a good chance of coming down to the wire. Smith, who is averaging more than 32 points per game this year, leads a Chestatee team that is back in the playoffs for the second straight season. Blessed Trinity, on the other hand, started the year winning its first 22 games, and its three losses have come at the hands of No. 4-ranked Dunwoody (twice) and Class AAAA’s Marist.
The War Eagles will have their hands full with Blessed Trinity’s balanced attack on offense, as Callahan and Cerone have the ability to take over games from the perimeter, and Brundidge and Aquino can pound the ball inside. But with Smith — who Blessed Trinity’s coach called “the best shooter we’ve seen all year” — a win is certainly possible for the War Eagles.
Dawson County vs. Greater Atlanta Christian
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Records: Dawson County (20-8), GAC (26-3)
Seeds: Dawson County, No. 3 Region 8-AA; GAC, No. 2 Region 6-AA
Coaches: Dawson County, Thad Burgess. GAC, Mike Mitchell
Key Players: Dawson County, PG Zach Cook (6-1, Sr.); SG Robert O’Quinn (5-10, Sr.); SG Lee Little (5-9, Sr.); PF Nick Fiorentino (6-4, Sr.); SF Alan Gilleland (6-3, Sr.). GAC, SG Taylor Metzger (6-2. Jr.); Trent Wiedeman (6-6, So.); SG Chase Hudson (6-0, Sr.)
Outlook: The Tigers enter the state tournament on a hot streak, winning 17 of their last 20 and making the playoffs two years in a row for the first time in school history. Their success will be tested in the first round with a matchup against the second-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian.
The Spartans present a deep lineup and lost only three games in the regular season, two of which were against Class AAAAA opponents. Boasting stellar shooting, they converted 14 of 19 3-point attempts in their loss to Wesleyan in the Region 6-AA semifinals. Along with a solid game from the field, GAC also holds up well in the lane, with two players standing over 6-foot-6.
Dawson County’s main threat is its 3-point shooting, a factor that coach Thad Burgess emphasizes.
If the Tigers can maintain possession and make their shots, a win is possible, but with equal shooting and more size, the Spartans are still the heavy favorite.
East Hall vs. South Atlanta
When: 7:30 tonight
Records: East Hall (22-6); South Atlanta (27-2)
Seeds: East Hall, No. 2 Region 7-AAA; South Atlanta, No. 3 Region 5-AAA.
Coaches: East Hall, Joe Dix. South Atlanta, Michael Reddick.
Key players: East Hall, C Ken Wise (6-5, Sr.); SG Trevor Bishop (6-0, Sr.); PG Dedric Ware (5-7, Sr.). South Atlanta, C Derrick Favors (6-8, Jr.); PG Nick Watkins (5-11, Jr.); SF DeAndre Robuck (6-4, Sr.); PF Robert Jones (6-4, Sr.).
Outlook: A second-place finish in the Region 7-AAA standings isn’t shabby until you consider that coming in on the losing end of the region finals garnered East Hall a first-round state playoff matchup with the No. 1-ranked team in the state, and USA Today’s No. 15-ranked team nationally, South Atlanta.
Despite boasting state and national rankings, the Hornets (27-2) are a No. 3 seed out of Region 5-AAA because of a loss in the region tournament semifinals to Blessed Trinity.
Their only other loss of the season was to the No. 3-ranked team in the nation, St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.), which at the time of the loss was ranked No. 1 in the country.
The bottom line looks something like this: South Atlanta averages 84 points per game while only giving up 49, and has center Derrick Favors, who has been tabbed the No. 1 junior basketball player in the country.
The upside for the Vikings (22-6) is that they are playing at home and, after years of region and state dominance, will be out to prove again that they, too, are among the elite.
East Hall is averaging 73 points per game and allowing 58.
If East Hall can prevent Favors from proving why he is ranked as the nation’s top junior, the Vikings have a reasonable shot at upsetting the state’s No. 1 team.
Flowery Branch vs. Southside
When: 7 tonight
Where: Flowery Branch
Records: Flowery Branch (24-3); Southside (18-9)
Seeds: Flowery Branch, No. 1 Region 7-AAA; Southside, No. 4 Region 5-AAA
Coaches: Flowery Branch, Todd Cottrell. Southside, Roderick Collier.
Key players: Flowery Branch, SG Josh Barrett (6-2, Jr.); C Izaan Cross (6-5, Jr.); F A.C. Bailey (6-3, Sr.).
Outlook: Despite ending the season losing four out of its last five, Southside made its way into the state tournament with a 67-62 victory in the region quarterfinals over North Atlanta (5-20).
Flowery Branch, on the other hand, didn’t sneak into the state playoffs, but walked through the front door, beating West Forsyth by 27 points. The Falcons went on to win region in dramatic fashion, beating East Hall in overtime to capture the team’s first region title.
The Falcons are averaging 76 points per game this season thanks to a balanced scoring attack featuring the on-point outside shooting of Barrett and sophomore Connor Shaw, and the consistent inside play of Cross and Bailey.
Flowery Branch is dangerous in the open court thanks to a five-in, five-out system that keeps the team’s legs fresh, but the Falcons also are a force to be reckoned with in the half court game thanks to the stellar team-control skills of point guards Rashad Tate and Daniel Tosta.
Defensively, despite an overzealousness that sometimes leads to an abundance of fouls, Flowery Branch is tireless in its full court press and allows just 60 points per game.
Throw in the fact that the Falcons are playing at home and this first-round matchup with Southside could go as smoothly as the game that got them into the state tournament.
Gainesville vs. Dunwoody
When: 7:30 tonight
Records: Gainesville (15-13); Dunwoody (24-3)
Seeds: Gainesville, No. 4 Region 7-AAA; Dunwoody, No. 1 5-AAA
Coaches: Gainesville, Jerry Davis; Dunwoody, Scott Bracco.
Key players: Gainesville, SG George Manomano (6-1, Jr.); PF Nick Johnson (6-2, Jr.); SF Allan Dockery (6-5, Sr.); Dunwoody, SF Delwan Graham (6-5, Sr.); PG Pierre Jordan (6-0, Sr.), SF Chris Singleton (6-9, Sr.).
Outlook: Jerry Davis is coaching his final Gainesville squad to the state playoffs after qualifying for the postseason last week with a win against North Hall in the Region 7-AAA tourney. But a semifinal and tournament consolation loss put the Red Elephants up against the No. 1-seeded Wildcats, who play in the toughest region in the state.
Leading the Red Elephants into the playoffs is junior George Manomano, who scored 55 points in two games last weekend in the region tournament.
Dunwoody, ranked No. 3 by Gasports.com, won its region tournament with a 58-49 win against No. 5 ranked Blessed Trinity. The Wildcats’ only in-state blemish this season was a season-opening loss to Blessed Trinity.
The Wildcats are entering the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons under coach Scott Bracco.
“We have to continue to play great defense,” Bracco said. “Gainesville is very athletic and is playing well at the right time.”
The Wildcats are led by McDonald’s All-American selection Chris Singleton (18 points, 14 rebounds per game), who has already signed with Florida State for next season. He is joined on the court by another future Seminole, Pierre Jordan (12 points, six assists).
Delwan Graham (20 points, 12 rebounds) is the Wildcats’ leading scorer and is signed with Louisiana State for next season.
Lakeview Academy vs. Bremen
When: 7 tonight
Records: Lakeview Academy (20-8); Bremen (7-17)
Seeds: Lakeview Academy, No. 1 Region 8-A; Bremen, No. 4 Region 6-A
Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Seth Vining. Bremen, Billy Pollard.
Key players: Lakeview Academy, SG David Pruett (6-3, Sr.); PG Haughton Carswell (5-7, Jr.); PF Colin King (6-0, Sr.). Bremen, PG Clayton McIntosh (6-1, Jr.); G Dylan Jenkins (6-2, Jr.).
Outlook: The Lions couldn’t have asked for a better first-round game. Lakeview, winners of 14 of its last 15 games, is fresh off of its first region title and will play a Bremen team that only won seven games this season.
With the way the Lions have closed out the year, Lakeview shouldn’t have much trouble advancing to the second round of the state tournament.
Compiled by Katie B. Davis, Bill Murphy, Jonathan Zopf and Mitch Blomert