Here are the 10 best games and story lines this weekend in Class AAAAAA basketball.
Several teams can clinch No. 1 seeds in their regions. Still waiting to hear when the Hillgrove-Pebblebrook game from Tuesday will be rescheduled. That was for first place in Region 4-AAAAAA. We realize that some of Friday's games might be postponed because of weather as some schools have announced closings already.
Tift County (19-2, 8-0) is expected to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Region 1 tournament and a berth in the state playoffs with road victories this weekend over Lowndes (9-12, 9-12) and Valdosta (13-7, 4-5). Tift, ranked No. 3, is playing as expected this season in the senior year of star guard Tadric Jackson, who averages 18.2 points, 3.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds. It’s mostly a team of seniors, but freshman forward P.J. Horne has been a difference-maker. He averages 12.7 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Westlake (21-1, 6-0) can clinch the No. 1 seed in Region 2 with victories this weekend over Newnan (15-5, 3-3) and Tri-Cities (10-10, 4-2). Westlake beat Newnan 64-62 on Jan. 17 on a layup at the buzzer by Dominic Joseph. Tri-Cities, now in second place in the region, fell easier, 82-66, on Jan. 25. Westlake has won 12 straight games and is unbeaten since Christmas.
Wheeler (17-4, 10-0), the No. 1-ranked team in AAAAAA, plays at No. 8 Milton (13-7, 8-2) on Friday and essentially would wrap up Region 5 with a victory, although Walton (17-3, 8-2) remains a threat. (Wheeler plays Walton next week.) Wheeler is coming off an 83-82 victory over Wenonah, the top-ranked Class 5A team in Alabama. Avery Patterson hit a buzzer-beater to win if after Wenonah had scored with 3 seconds left. Jaylen Brown scored 30 points. Check out Brown’s dunk against Wenonah below courtesy of PlayOn Sports. He might have a tougher time getting one off against Milton’s front line of Chris Lewis (6-8), Mo Lewis IV (6-6) and Sean O’Connell (6-8). Wheeler beat Milton 61-55 on Jan. 16, when Patterson scored 21.
Lambert (17-4, 10-0) can clinch Region 6 with victories over North Forsyth (1-20, 1-9) on Friday and Alpharetta (15-6, 9-1) on Saturday. Alpharetta is obviously the tougher out. The two played Dec. 3. Lambert won 60-47. Lambert made the state playoffs for the first time last season under Scott Bracco, the former South Gwinnett and Dunwoody coach who won state titles at Dunwoody in 1995 and 1996. Lambert is led by Logan Bush, a 1,000-point career scorer, and Trevor Shipes, a 6-foot-6 senior who transferred from Buford.
Berkmar (16-5, 10-2) plays at Grayson (18-2, 9-2) on Friday in a game that could decide the No. 1 seed in Region 8. Berkmar beat Grayson 48-40 on Jan. 8. Grayson, which missed 13 of 18 free-throw attempts in that game, hasn’t lost since. Berkmar’s 6-11 center Tim Rowe scored 22 points and had 14 rebounds in the first game. He averages 13.7 and 7.9. Grayson’s top player is 6-3 senior Marquise Lanier, who averages 15.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. Grayson averages more than 10 steals per game. Austin Morris gets 3.4 of those and averages 12.5 points.
Game of the week is Friday – second-ranked Archer (20-2, 13-0) at third-ranked Parkview (19-2, 11-1) in Region 8. Archer beat Parkview 51-42 on Jan. 9. Parkview point guard Genesis Perrymond, who has signed with South Alabama, suffered a fractured collarbone in that game and hasn’t played since. She is not expected to return until the state playoffs, if then. Archer is unbeaten against Georgia teams. The leading scorer is Amber Skidgel (13.9 ppg). Autumn Newby averages 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds. Point guard Madison Newby averages 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Brunswick (19-2, 8-1) has Region 1 in the bag, assuming no slip-ups this weekend at Camden County on Friday and at Coffee on Saturday. Those are the region’s bottom-feeders. Destiny Austin (20.4 ppg) and Brianna Gipson (13 ppg, 8.2 rpg) are the leaders of the Lady Pirates’ senior-laden team.
Newton (14-6, 8-0) had games this week against its main Region 2 rivals, Luella (13-8, 6-2) and Rockdale County (6-3, 10-7), but the Luella game (Tuesday) is up in the air. Newton plays at Rockdale and will almost certainly be the region’s No. 1 seed with a victory. Sonia Forney, a 5-9 guard, is Newton’s top player. She averages 11.4 points on a team that uses its bench generously.
Hughes (18-2, 4-1) plays at Douglas County (16-3, 4-2) on Friday. With a victory, Hughes will set up a showdown with south Fulton County rival Westlake (17-4, 5-1) for the No. 1 seed in Region 3. Hughes made the AAAAAA semifinals last season.
Roswell (14-7, 9-1) can clinch the No. 1 seed in Region 5 on Friday with a victory over second-place Etowah (10-10, 7-3). Roswell beat Etowah 67-47 last week. Andreona Keys, a 5-10 wing who has signed with Purdue, scored 29 points and had nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.