Class AAAA and Class A-Private start the Final Four action on Friday, March 2, while the remaining classifications pack Saturday with two dozen more semifinal showdowns. Fort Valley State (approximately 100 miles south of Atlanta) will host Class AAAA’s four-pack of games, starting with Americus-Sumter and the Henry County girls, and closing with Sandy Creek and the Upson-Lee boys. Friday’s schedule is listed below.
The semifinal showdown between Americus-Sumter and Henry County will feature a bevy of potential scorers. For Henry County, Brooke Moore and Janiya Jones offer an incredible one-two punch on the offensive end. Moore led the Warhawks in the quarterfinals with her 22 points, and Jones’ netted a game-high 24 points in their 82-61 win over Upson-Lee in the second round. Americus-Sumter’s offense starts with shooting guard Jykiera Long and continues deep down the roster. Long scored a playoff-high 19 points in the Panthers’ 42-37 win over Marist, but teammates Deasia Ford, Shidajah Johnson, Brianna Pope and Nyja Carson have also notched double-figures at least once this postseason. Pope is a 6-foot- sophomore forward that has brought an underclassmen spark to the 2016 state champs with Carson, who is only a freshman. A buzzer beater by Kiana Banks lifted Spalding past Madison County 55-53 in the quarterfinals, but now Banks and Region 2-AAAA Player of the Year Tykira Gilbert will be tested against the top-ranked team in the classification, Carver-Columbus. North Oconee didn’t stand a chance in the quarterfinals as Carver-Columbus coasted to a 68-26 victory. The Tigers defeated Cross Creek 60-56 in last year’s semifinals before falling in a 68-67 heartbreaker to rival Columbus in their first-ever trip to the finals.
Senior’s Rodney Walker and Brenden Robertson are Baldwin’s primary scorers, but players up and down the roster have stepped up this postseason. Ten different Braves’ scored points in their 71-45 first-round victory over Druid Hills and Charles Ubah’s game-winning three-pointer gave Baldwin its first (and only) lead of its 60-57 Sweet 16 win over Americus-Sumter. In Wednesday’s 61-52 win over Cartersville, Donte Justice scored 13 points in the first half and hit back-to-back three-pointers that put Baldwin up 52-44 with just minutes left. Baldwin’s opponent St. Pius has rolled through the playoffs, stacking up a 24.6 average margin of victory through the first three rounds. Sandy Creek faces defending state champion Upson-Lee in a primetime matchup worthy of closing out Friday’s semifinal slate. Sandy Creek showcased its explosiveness in the quarterfinals by outscoring Burke County 27-9 in the final quarter. Jarred Godfrey led the Patriots with 21 points, Xavier Brewer scored 18 and junior T.J. Bickerstaff tallied 13 points and 16 rebounds. Upson-Lee demolished LaFayette 70-40 for a 61st straight victory. After earning Class AAAA Player of the Year as a junior last season, Upson-Lee’s Tavias Fagan has been even better this year; Fagan’s points per game (25) assists (4.6) and rebounds (7) have all increased. In addition to Fagan, Upson-Lee boasts 6-foot-6 junior Travon Walker, guards Zyrice Scott and Cameron Traylor, and senior JaCorey Smith.
Friday, March 2
At Fort Valley State
Girls: R1#2 Americus-Sumter vs. R4#1 Henry County 2:00 p.m.
Boys: R3#1 Baldwin vs. R8#1 St. Pius 4:00 p.m
Girls: R1#1 Carver-Columbus vs. R2#1 Spalding 6:00 p.m.
Boys: R5#1 Sandy Creek vs. R2#1 Upson-Lee 8:00 p.m.