These aren’t necessarily the favorites to win the state title, but here are five teams that are worth watching in the Class AAAA boys basketball tournament, which begins this weekend.
*Alcovy: The second-ranked Tigers are perhaps the hottest team in Class AAAA, entering the state tournament on a 16-game winning streak that includes a 73-60 victory over Fayette County in the Region 3-AAAA championship game. Alcovy’s three losses this season have come against Class AA No. 9 Morgan County and AAAAA schools North Cobb and Savannah. The Tigers have a decent draw, with no other team in its quarter of the bracket ranked higher than No. 8.
*Bainbridge: The Bearcats had won 17 consecutive games until a controversial 60-58 loss to Northside-Warner Robins in the Region 1-AAAA championship game. Northside won on a shot as time expired, but Bainbridge coach Rickey McCullough told the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight, “He got the shot away after [the buzzer sounded] so it should not have counted.” The Bearcats have a first-round matchup against Effingham County, which is 26-2 but was upset by Ware County in the 2-AAAA semifinals.
*Fayette County: The loss to Alcovy in the 3-AAAA final doesn’t mean the Tigers aren’t capable of a state tournament run. The last time Fayette County lost a game (58-53 to Kenton, Ky., on Dec. 26), it responded with 17 consecutive victories. The Tigers dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 in the rankings after their latest loss, but they are the highest-rated team in their quarter of the bracket and could be in line for a meeting with Miller Grove in the semifinals.
*Lithia Springs: It will be interesting to see if Lithia Springs can keep its postseason magic alive. The Lions entered the 5-AAAA tournament with the No. 7 seed and a 14-11 overall record, then won consecutive games against East Paulding, No. 2 seed Sprayberry, New Manchester and top-seeded Douglas County to win the region title. They held a Douglas County team averaging 88 points per game to 57 in the region final. Lithia Springs has a tough first-round assignment against Region 6 No. 4 team Marist.
*Miller Grove: The Wolverines enter the state tournament with the No. 1 ranking as they try to win their fourth consecutive Class AAAA title. Miller Grove has lost nine games, but eight came against top out-of-state competition. “The road still goes through Miller Grove. They’re still the top program,” Chamblee coach Caesar Burgess said after his Bulldogs handed Miller Grove its only loss to a Georgia team, 56-54 on Jan. 20. Tony Parker averages about 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks to lead the Wolverines.