There are two requirements to be taken seriously as a state-championship contender in girls Class AAAAAA basketball: You have to be Norcross, or you have to beat Norcross.
North Gwinnett beat Norcross 64-49 this week. So that makes two teams that qualify at the moment.
So what about Parkview? The third-ranked team in AAAAAA (and in Gwinnett County) is 18-0. The average score is 64-27.
‘’North Gwinnett and Norcross, what they’ve got are the big-time players,’’ Parkview coach Tony Watkins said Thursday. “What we’ve got is a lot of good players. Our depth is the most important thing. We’ve got a lot of equal players who love each other.’’
A year ago, Parkview was 30-0 when beaten by Norcross 63-48 in the state quarterfinals. Norcross lost to eventual champ McEachern in the semifinals but returned the state’s best player, Diamond DeShields.
The two seemed destined to play again in the state playoffs – as early as the second round.
If Parkview wins Region 8 as expected and Norcross is the runner-up in Region 7 to North Gwinnett, that’s how the playoff draw will bracket them.
Aside from DeShields, Norcross also has Shayla Cooper, signed with Georgetown. North Gwinnett has two top-25 national recruits in Lexie Brown and Peyton Whitted and four other Division I recruits. Those are the ‘’big-time’’ players that Watkins speaks about.
Parkview has a remarkably young 15-player team of six freshmen, six sophomore, a junior and two seniors. None averages more than 16.5 minutes per game as Watkins and assistant Carl Zimmerman have settled on a system that sends five in, five out, and routinely gives significant minutes to 12 players a game.
The leader is point guard Marissa Mandeldove, a 5-4 senior. She has signed with Augusta State and averages 10 points, 6 assists and 5 steals.
The other senior, 6-2 post Mia Marshall, has signed with Appalachian State. An outstanding rebounder and defender, Marshall missed last season with a knee injury.
The leading scorer, at less than 11 points per game, is 5-9 wing Genesis Perrymond, a major 3-point threat. The most recruited player is 6-2 sophomore post Victoria Harris, who is getting looks from Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Purdue, Ole Miss and others.
Watkins gets lots of questions about his team’s schedule. Could it be tougher? His region has not proven to be strong in recent years, so those games are built in. It’s hard to nail down Norcross or North Gwinnett because of the tournaments those teams like to enter.
Like most teams, Parkview doesn’t have the blue-chip prospects that make it attractive to national showcases.
‘‘Our schedule is what it is, and all we can do is play who’s on it,’’ Watkins said. ‘’It hasn’t mattered who we’ve played so far; we’ve gone out and gotten after them. That’s what we’ve got our kids believing in.’’