Girls semifinal preview: Road to the championships runs through DeKalb, Gwinnett

Here are some things to know about each of the 14 girls basketball semifinals to be played Friday and Saturday:

Class AAAAAA

*Hughes vs. Norcross (4 p.m. Saturday, Georgia Tech): The fourth-year Hughes program is in the state tournament for the first time after finishing with its first winning record. The ninth-ranked Panthers have a talented senior in Briunca Caldwell and a strong freshman class led by point guard Kennya Simms. Third-ranked Norcross has beaten South Forsyth, second-ranked Parkview and No. 4 Cherokee in the state tournament as it seeks its third championship in four years. The Blue Devils have two of the state’s top players in Diamond DeShields (North Carolina signee) and Shayla Cooper (Georgetown), who combined for 62 points in a 76-43 victory against Cherokee in the quarterfinals.

*North Cobb vs. North Gwinnett (7 p.m. Saturday, Georgia Tech): Sixth-ranked North Cobb is the champion and only team still alive from Region 4, which put two teams (McEachern and Hillgrove) in the championship game in the highest classification last season. The Warriors are making their first semifinal appearance since 1967 and third overall and seeking their first state title. Top-ranked North Gwinnett is led by McDonald’s All-American nominees Lexie Brown (signed with Maryland) and Peyton Whitted (Penn State). The Bulldogs are making their fourth semifinal appearance and seeking their first championship. North Gwinnett’s 55-41 victory over Alpharetta in the quarterfinals was the closest game either team has had in the state tournament.

Class AAAAA

*Effingham County vs. Miller Grove (4 p.m. Saturday, Kennesaw State): This game matches two of the eight schools that have both the boys and girls teams in the semifinals. Effingham County is the only unranked girls team remaining in AAAAA, while Miller Grove is the only No. 2 seed still alive in the classification. Effingham County is playing in the semifinals for the first time since 1968, when it was the Class A runner-up. Third-ranked Miller Grove is aiming for its second consecutive state title and trying to become the seventh team from DeKalb County in eight years to win the championship in the second-highest classification.

*Forest Park vs. Southwest DeKalb (7 p.m. Saturday, Kennesaw State): Fifth-ranked Forest Park is 16-1 since Kayla Potts returned to the lineup after missing a year with a knee injury, but that loss was a 65-33 setback against Southwest DeKalb on Jan. 26. Forest Park is in the semifinals for the third time in four seasons and looking to win its first state title since 1970. Fourth-ranked Southwest DeKalb is looking to reach the championship game for the fifth time in six seasons after winning titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and losing in the final last year. The Panthers are one of the state’s hottest teams, winning 14 of 15 after an 8-7 start and claiming the tournament title in tough Region 6-AAAAA.

Class AAAA

*Mary Persons vs. Sandy Creek (4 p.m. Saturday, Fort Valley State): Sixth-ranked Mary Persons (26-2) has the best record of the remaining AAAA teams after a surprisingly easy 75-60 victory over No. 5 Woodland-Stockbridge on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are in the semifinals for the first time since 1966 and seeking their first championship. Sandy Creek is the only unranked team remaining in the AAAA field, although the Patriots were as high as No. 6 until two losses in the Region 5-AAAA tournament dropped them to fourth place. Sandy Creek, which is in the semifinals for the first time, is the only team remaining in any classification (other than Class A, which seeds teams differently) that is not a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

*Jonesboro vs. Columbia (7 p.m. Saturday, Fort Valley State): Fourth-ranked Jonesboro is in the semifinals for the third time in five seasons but has yet to advance to the championship game. The Cardinals have won 23 consecutive games after starting the season 3-3 and won the Region 4-AAAA championship. Top-ranked Columbia swept the boys and girls state championships in 2010 and 2012 and has a chance to do it again this season. The Eagles had never advanced past the quarterfinals before the 2010 title season but are in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. Miah Spencer, who signed with N.C. State, leads DeKalb County in scoring at about 20 points per game.

Class AAA

*Southwest-Macon vs. Dawson County (4 p.m. Saturday, Armstrong State): Southwest is the only unranked team remaining in the Class AAA field, but the Patriots won the Region 2-AAA championship and bring a 22-5 record into the semifinals. Southwest hasn’t played in the semifinals since back-to-back runner-up finishes in 1994 and 1995. Ninth-ranked Dawson County finished as the runner-up to No. 1 Buford in Region 7-AAA and lost to the Wolves three times but outlasted them in the state tournament. The Tigers are making their first appearance in the state tournament in 11 years.

*Chapel Hill vs. St. Pius (7 p.m. Saturday, Armstrong State): Seventh-ranked Chapel Hill reached the semifinals with consecutive victories against ranked teams, beating No. 10 Dodge County 44-38 in the second round and No. 6 Beach 55-50 in the quarterfinals. The Panthers, who are on a 15-game winning streak, are in the semifinals for the first time. No. 3 St. Pius is the highest-ranked team remaining in Class AAA after it knocked off No. 1 Buford (and No. 2 Washington County lost to Southwest-Macon) in the quarterfinals. Sophomore Asia Durr had 32 points and seven rebounds against Buford. The Golden Lions won Class AAAA championships in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Class AA

*Laney vs. Kendrick (4 p.m. Friday, Georgia College): This game matches the only two remaining unbeaten teams in any classification. Second-ranked Laney (29-0) is in the semifinals for the fifth consecutive year and 12th time overall but still seeking its first title. Laney is led by Khadijiah Cave, a senior who has signed with Baylor. Third-ranked Kendrick (30-0) reached at least the quarterfinals every year from 2003 through 2011, winning the title in 2008, before losing in the first round last season. The Cherokees are led by junior Kahlia Lawrence, who scored a team-high 16 points against Lovett in the quarterfinals.

*Thomasville vs. Wesleyan (7 p.m. Friday, Georgia College): Thomasville, the lowest-ranked team remaining in AA at No. 5, won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998 and reached the semifinals in 2004. The Bulldogs have played just four games this season against ranked teams – all in the regular season – winning two out of three against No. 6 Pelham and losing to Class AAAA Redan. Top-ranked Wesleyan is seeking its sixth consecutive state title and ninth in 10 seasons. The Wolves won their first two state tournament games by an average score of 80-28 but had more of a test in the quarterfinals, knocking out fourth-ranked Calhoun 64-49.

Class A (public)

*Towns County vs. Gordon Lee (4 p.m. Friday, Fort Valley State): This game will be a rematch of the teams’ Dec. 29 contest, which Gordon Lee won 70-69 in overtime for third place at the Battle of the States Tournament. Kassidy Blevins scored 26 points and hit the game-winning layup with 1.5 seconds to play in the first meeting. She had 30 points in a 73-68 victory over Seminole County on Tuesday to send the No. 6 seed Trojans to the semifinals for the first time. Second-seeded Towns County is making its first appearance in the semifinals since 2008 and third overall. The Indians have never advanced to the championship game.

*Randolph-Clay vs. Wilkinson County (7 p.m. Friday, Fort Valley State): Randolph-Clay is the highest-ranked public school in Class A at No. 3, behind private schools Southwest Atlanta Christian and St. Francis. The Red Devils have won 18 consecutive games, with only three of those decided by 10 points or less. Randolph-Clay won state titles in 1996 and 2000 and is in the semifinals for the 13th time. Wilkinson County is the only unranked team remaining in either of the Class A brackets. The Warriors, who won the Region 7-A championship and are seeded No. 4, are appearing in the semifinals for the first time.

Class A (private)

*St. Francis vs. Calvary Day (4 p.m. Friday, Kennesaw State): Second-ranked and No. 3-seeded St. Francis had eight losses, tied with Southwest DeKalb for the most of any semifinalist, but all came against top-quality teams. The Knights also handed No. 1 Southwest Atlanta Christian one of its two losses to Georgia teams. This is the first appearance in the semifinals for St. Francis after reaching the quarterfinals in each of the past three seasons. Ninth-ranked Calvary Day, the No. 2 seed, is 26-3 overall but 21-0 against Class A teams. The Cavaliers are in the semifinals for the fourth time and won the Class A championship in 2008.

*Holy Innocents’ vs. Southwest Atlanta Christian (7 p.m. Friday, Kennesaw State): Holy Innocents’ won the Class A championship in 1999 and is making its sixth appearance in the semifinals. The Golden Bears won the Region 5-A championship and are seeded No. 1 in the private-school bracket, which is based on a points system. Southwest Atlanta Christian, which is led by Region 6-A player of the year Alexis Carter, has been ranked No. 1 in Class A for most of the year but is the No. 4 seed. The Warriors won the Class A championship in 2006 and are making their sixth appearance in the semifinals since then.

19 comments Add your comment

coACHJ

March 1st, 2013
7:54 am

People need realize when south west dekalb played forest park kayla potts did not play nor did our 6′2 center and our 6′1 power forward was limited. we went 6 deep that night, so you all better watch out for the lady panthers.

GwinBall

March 1st, 2013
8:25 am

You should be glad it is basketball, not English class.

South Fulton Resident

March 1st, 2013
12:44 pm

Congratulations Langston Hughes Lady Panthers! The community is very proud of you ladies, you’re a young team & you’ve already made school history. Keep up the awesome job, go hard!

fan of the game

March 1st, 2013
2:18 pm

Dekalb Women’s Basketball has had over 5 years of dominance in the top class- 1 and -2 for over 7 years at least. It would be interesting if Dekalb and Gwinett played a “challenge” series at mid season just for fun.

fan of the game

March 1st, 2013
2:34 pm

Typically end of year player awards go to “offensive stars” on teams with superior offense. But in 4A/5A Miller Grove has been the best team for the last 3 seasons. ( Columbia would have to be given the nod for Dekalb overall) . MG is a defensive team that virtually always wins their competitive games when they hold the opponent to 45 or fewer points. There are three players on MGs team that deserve consideration for State , County , and District Honors. T . Thompson Guard and perhaps the cleverest player in the state. K. Weaver the best shot blocker/defender at F/C with a credible low post game. Rarely is out of position or makes a mistake. ( Player of the Year? ) K. Hunt the best shut down defender at the Guard Position who runs the best team from the PG position. ( Player of the Year ?).

If SWD and MG make it the finals Coach of the Year will be determined by that game…….

MG made defensive play credible again ( versus run and chuck or three point bombing)

I hope these players get the proper recognition as this MG era comes to and end……… Their 2nd string sophmore F/C SB however has the talent and game to keep this type of play alive……

fan of the game

March 1st, 2013
2:41 pm

Dekalb Women’s Basketball has had over 5 years of dominance in the top class- 1 and -2 . It would be interesting if Dekalb and Gwinett played a “challenge” series at mid season just for fun.

re-edit

Laney C/O 95

March 1st, 2013
6:13 pm

Laney Girls 67 Kendrick High 44!! Way to go Lady Wildcats. Now its’s the boys time to take care of business!! I can’t hide this WILDCAT PRIDE..

Laney C/O 81

March 1st, 2013
6:31 pm

I am right there with you, looking at flights and hotels to Georgia now. Let’s go Wildcats

Confused...

March 1st, 2013
8:30 pm

If Columbia beat MGHS boys and girls this year and have more rings in the building than MGHS .. How is MGHS the best team the last 3 years boys or girls? They werent the best team in their own region this year? I think Columbia beat Tucker girls this year too.. I think you might have to think that one over..Clearly there is a problem.

Basketball2014

March 2nd, 2013
6:37 am

Fan of the game you must be a parent of one of the girls that you mentioned. All 3 players have attitudes. They are bullies on the floor. They play dirty basketball. You might want to check out the B- 12 pills that the Coach is giving them before and at halftime of the game.

Wilt Chamberlain

March 2nd, 2013
7:36 am

I DISAGREE with the title of this article. The road to the championship runs through Cobb! Forget the rankings. Matt Williams doesn’t have superstars, just 8 solid contributors. Get ready world!

Concerned

March 2nd, 2013
9:47 am

Basketball2014, can you prove that the Coach is giving B-12 pills to the players. Is this legal???

fan of the game

March 2nd, 2013
10:04 am

Hmmm, I clearly stated that the Columbia girls certainly had the best Dekalb team over the past 3 years or so. In terms of the boys MG and Columbia have played 2 pre season games and 2 in season games over the past 4 yrs. MG won 3 of those encounters 2 in the Columbia gym. MG also beat the 2nd best team SWD 5 to 1 over the same span. With a good record against the best in 5/6 A. One can wonder about Columbia with Jordan and Dean on the same team……did not happen. Bad MG girls attitudes? Weaver almost never fouls….while leading the state in blocked shots. Hunt likes winning but respects her opponents. Thompson generally has a smile on her face during games. One tactic teams employ against MG is to play rough looking to get Hunt into foul trouble. The problem with this tactic is that MG is generally the physically superior team……so you get the logical result. A defensive team is often accused of various things……..Weaver , Hunt, Thompson have won and deserve a few awards based on results……

fan of the game

March 2nd, 2013
10:31 am

It will be interesting to see if the script plays out as expected with defense vs offense MG vs SWD final. MG faces the type of team they sometimes struggle to subdue…. EC has a dead eye three point shooter and a credible inside player aka Tucker……MGs two wins against Tucker were not joy rides and one could argue that with any bench the results might have been different. I have not seen FP but the posting here states that the prior game is not a good reference point…. With the exception of Columbia no one has solved MGs boys outside in slash/3 point game. Tucker with a credible in side game and a “six point” play could not take down MG…… so 5 in a row seems possible

VChandler

March 2nd, 2013
10:44 am

@Wilt Chamberlain. Let them keep sleeping. Our girls are ready to shake up the world. We have 7 girls that have scored 16 or more in a game. We don’t rely on 1 or 2 superstars. I love our team and I know they are ready to take on the challenge. They are not just happy to be here. We have a girl averaging 18pts per game in the state playoffs but no mentions. No worries though. Warriors Come Out To Plaaaay!

fan of the game

March 2nd, 2013
10:51 am

Although it is not going to happen I wish GA would adopt a 35 or 40 second shot clock…All most all of the boys games are similar……outside in slashing with a 3 point kick out….followed by a fourth quarter stall. Want to see a toss of the ball into the low post followed by ahook shot or gracefully fall away jumper? You should search for big foot first.

Hate on us hater

March 2nd, 2013
2:52 pm

You know this season has been one to test the strength of a champion . All you are doing is adding fuel to the fire. Thanks for the extra fuel not that we needed it. But for the next time you decide to write about things you think will tear us down keep in mind you still want to be apart of it. Ps. A champion lives in us remember that.

fan of the game

March 2nd, 2013
4:46 pm

MG girls came out focused…..only allowed 2 field goals in the first half…no threes…..if they don’t lose focus part 1 of the script will be complete….up 25 to 10.

rmbuck1

March 2nd, 2013
5:49 pm

Early Finals girls

Norcross 64, Hughes 16
Dawson co 66, SW Macon 50
Miller Grove 49, Effingham Co 23
Sandy Creek 48, Mary Person 23