The Class AAAAAAA finals are set –
It’s Newton vs. Westlake (girls) and Norcross vs. Meadowcreek (boys) on Saturday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.
Only Norcross’ boys among the three have won a state title. The Blue Devils have five championships, all since 2005 but none since 2013. They can join Wheeler and Southwest Macon as the only programs in modern tournament history to win six times in the highest classification.
Norcross, ranked No. 2, has beaten No. 1 McEachern 75-55 and No. 3 Newton 86-66 the past two rounds.
Norcross’ opponent, Meadowcreek, is suddenly a force to be reckoned with in multiple sports.
Opened in 1985, Meadowcreek won its first state champion in any sport last spring in boys soccer.
Then last fall, the football team – which had won only nine games in the previous 14 seasons – had its first winning season since 1990, its first state-playoff appearance in history and first post-season appearance of any kind since 1988.
Now, it’s the sixth-ranked boys basketball team’s time to shine.
“This means a bunch,’’ Meadowcreek coach Curtis Gilleylen told Stan Awtrey of ajc.com after Saturday’s 57-55 victory over Grayson. ‘’We’ve kind of been the forgot-about program for a while, and now we’re making a statement, saying Meadowcreek athletics is a premier athletic program. And we want to win it all. We feel like we’ve got some unfinished business. We know our foe is going to be formidable, we know them very well, a very talented team, but we’ve got some talent in our locker room, as well.”
The Norcross-Meadowcreek final, between Region 7 rivals, marks the first time that two Gwinnett County boys teams have met in the finals of the highest class. (Greater Atlanta Christian beat Buford in the 2011 Class AA final.)
Newton’s girls are in the finals for the first time since 1963, when the school was called Newton County and was the Class AA runner-up. Newton trailed four-time defending champion McEachern by 18 points but won 65-57 at the Buford Civic Center.
McEachern’s 23-game winning streak in the state tournament is over. That’s the longest streak ever in the highest classification and third-longest in history beind Wesleyan’s streak of 34 from 2008 to 2014 and Hart County’s streak of 24 from 1989 to 1995.
While Newton has only recently emerged as a factor on the state level, Westlake has been knocking on the door for 21 years, or since Hilda Hankerson became head coach in 1998.
The Lions have made the state tournament in 19 of Hankerson’s 21 seasons and reached the semifinals four times. They’ve been in the quarterfinals the past three. They’ve been eliminated by the eventual champion five times.
Westlake stamped its ticket with a 52-44 victory over North Forsyth on Saturday.
Here’s some Twitter reaction to the events of Saturday: