Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

7A boys basketball: State's best region goes down to wire

The regular-season race in the state’s best boys basketball region – that would be 6-AAAAAAA – comes down to the final weekend in what’s just a prelude to the state’s best region tournament, which will be next week at Mountain View.

In the meantime, No. 7 Peachtree Ridge (19-4, 8-2) plays at No. 10 Duluth (16-7, 7-3) for the regular-season region title on Thursday night. Update: Peachtree Ridge beat Duluth 60-57 on Thursday night as Devin Vassell had 21 points and nine rebounds.

That’s assuming that the winner can get back up and take care of business against weaker teams on Friday. Peachtree Ridge plays Discovery while Duluth plays North Gwinnett.

No. 5 Mountain View (19-4, 9-3) and Collins Hill (19-4, 7-4) are also in play in a region that will send four elite-eight-caliber teams into the state playoffs.

Peachtree Ridge, by beating Duluth, can win the No. 1 seed outright. Duluth can get the No. 1 seed for having swept Peachtree Ridge, if the Wildcats can beat the Lions again.

Remember that GHSA-induced replay of the final second of the Collins Hill-Discovery game last month?

Collins Hill had won the game on last-second free throws, only to be ordered back to replay the final play because of a misapplication of a rule. That resulted in a Discovery victory. If not for that, the region might be looking at a four-way tie for first place with four special teams. Instead, Collins Hill stands in fourth place with four losses.

Any time one of the big four get together, it’s liable to be a great game.

Let’s recap some recent ones:

-Mountain View beat Collins Hill 60-57 in double overtime Friday. Mountain View’s Spencer Rodgers scored 16 points and had eight rebounds.

-Mountain View had a chance to take charge of the region the next night, but lost to Peachtree Ridge 68-57. Peachtree Ridge’s Kamerron Oyala scored 23 points off the bench.

-Then on Wednesday, Collins Hill re-established itself with a 65-53 victory over Duluth, just days after Duluth had replaced Collins Hill in the AJC’s top 10. Collins Hill’s Mandarius Dickerson scored 19 points and rallied his team from a 31-22 halftime deficit.

Is it right to declare this the state’s top region? The computer Maxwell Ratings think so. Loren Maxwell doesn’t publish his basketball ratings as he does with football, but he provides them to this writer to help with the AJC’s rankings.

Entering this week, Maxwell had each of Region 6’s big four teams in the top 20 of his all-classification rankings – Mountain View at No. 6, Peachtree Ridge at No. 8, Duluth at No. 11 and Collins Hill at No. 17. All are in the top 11 in the classification.

No other region has more than two teams in the all-class top 20. Maxwell also rates all four Region 6 powers ahead of Miller Grove, the best team in Class AAAAAA’s best region.

Here’s a look at how the other regions are shaping up entering the final weekend of the regular season. If you're looking for an alternative to Duluth-Peachtree Ridge, you might check out Wheeler vs. Pebblebrook on Friday night at the Cobb Civic Center.

Region 1 – Unranked Tift County (18-6, 5-0) has clinched the No. 1 seed and will finish out its regular season against last-place Camden County on Friday night. Colqutt County (12-7, 2-3) and Lowndes (15-9, 3-2) have played Tift closely this season, but Tift should win its region tournament next week playing on its home floor. In fact, Tift gets a bye until the final.

Region 2 – No. 4 Pebblebrook (20-2, 8-0) plays No. 8 Wheeler (16-7, 8-1) at the Cobb Civic Center on Friday night (7 p.m. tipoff). Wheeler’s player to watch is 5-star center E.J. Montgomery. Pebblebrook doesn’t have a player on the level of Montgomery, or famous alum Collin Sexton, just a bunch of very good players such as senior wing Mervin James, a Canisius signee. Pebblebrook has won 18 straight games and haven’t lost since Thanksgiving. One of its losses was to No. 3 Newton, the other to Charlotte Christian. Pebblebrook beat Wheeler 71-68 on Dec. 16. No reason to think Wheeler and Pebblebrook won’t meet again for the region title next week as traditional power Westlake is down this year.

Region 3 – No. 1 McEachern (21-2, 9-0) can finish a perfect region schedule with a win at Hillgrove (8-13, 2-6) on Friday night. McEachern’s average margin of victory in region games is 35.8 points, no game closer than 12. McEachern is ranked in several polls, peaking at No. 4 in the Fab 50 put out by McEachern is seeking its first state title in basketball.

Region 4 – Unranked Etowah (19-2, 7-1) can clinch the No. 1 seed with a victory Thursday night against Lassiter (4-17, 1-7). The Eagles play Walton (12-10, 5-3) on Friday. Walton is the only region opponent to beat Etowah. The Raiders won 43-38 on Etowah’s home floor Jan. 12, knocking Etowah out of the top 10 and casting doubt on whether the Eagles will be a factor in the state playoffs. Etowah won a round last season with a lesser team than this one, which has a win over No. 7 Peachtree Ridge.

Region 5 – Milton (13-11, 7-2) ended the 10-game winning streak of West Forsyth (14-10, 7-2) on Wednesday night with a 68-58 decision, and that might lead to a three-way tie for first including Lambert (18-5, 7-2). The No. 1 seed is important because there are three good teams in the region, and the No. 1 seed won’t face either until the final. Making the final means a first-round state-playoff game at home.

Region 7 - No. 2 Norcross (20-3, 10-1) beat No. 6 Meadowcreek (19-5, 10-2) on Kyle Sturdivant’s 3-point shot at the buzzer last Friday night at Norcross. The final was 64-63. That built some anticipation for the region tournament, which will be next week at Central Gwinnett. Sturdivant is a region player-of-the-year candidate and a junior with offers from Auburn, Florida State, Georgia Tech and the like. He scored 22 points with seven rebounds in the game. Norcross has clinched the No. 1 seed. Meadowcreek has lost only to Norcross in region play.

Region 8 – Led by five-star point guard Ashton Hagans, No. 3 Newton (21-3, 8-1) has won 12 straight games, including victories over No. 9 Grayson (17-5, 6-3) and No. 1-ranked Warner Robins of AAAAA and Morgan County of AAA. Grayson has split with Newton in two close games but lost its chance to tie Newton for the region lead when it lost to Shiloh 54-53 Friday night. Shiloh (10-13, 5-5), with a great player such as Georgia-committed junior Elias King, can be a spoiler.

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