Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Four Class AAAAAA elites to meet in state finals


The cream has risen to the top in the Class AAAAAA basketball tournaments.

The boys teams from No. 1 Hughes and No. 2 Gainesville and the girls from No. 1 Lovejoy and No. 3 Harrison were the highest-rated teams in their halves of the brackets, and all four advanced to the championship games, which will be played Friday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion. 

The biggest obstacle for any of the four was Lovejoy’s quarterfinal matchup with second-ranked Winder-Barrow. The Wildcats survived with a 68-67 overtime victory. 

Lovejoy and Harrison will meet at 6 p.m., followed by Hughes and Gainesville at 8 p.m. 

Here’s a look the four teams still standing in Class AAAAAA and how they got to the state finals. 

Boys 

No. 2 Gainesville (24-6) vs. No. 1 Hughes (26-5) 

(8 p.m. Friday, Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion) 

*Gainesville: The Red Elephants have won 21 consecutive games since a 3-6 start and appear to be peaking in the playoffs, scoring 94.5 points per game and winning by an average of 30.5 points in tournament victories over Pope, Alexander, Lakeside-Evans and Heritage-Conyers. The Region 8 champions haven’t had a game decided by less than 14 points in the past 11 games. Gainesville has offensive weapons all over the court. Rafael Rubel was the leader in a 102-86 victory over Heritage in the semifinals. Xavier Bledson had 18 points (16-of-17 on free throws), 12 rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Jarrel Rosser (16 points), Jarred Rosser (13 points) and Kejuan Hale (10 points) also scored in double figures. “We’ve got a lot of good players, but they all bought into sacrificing ‘me’ for ‘we.’ They all believe in the team concepts we’ve been preaching,” Gainesville coach Benjie Wood told Jeff Hart of AccessWDUN. The Red Elephants are in the championship game for the first time since a runner-up finish in 2013. They won back-to-back championships in 1983 and 1984. Gainesville was eliminated by Hughes 72-69 in the quarterfinals last season. 

*Hughes: The Panthers, who won the first state title in program history last year, have a chance to become the first repeat champions in the second-largest class since Miller Grove’s six-year run ended after the 2014 tournament. Hughes, the Region 5 champion, has won 11 consecutive games and lost just once this season – 70-66 to Alexander on Jan. 9 – to a Class AAAAAA team. Star guard Landers Nolley, a Virginia Tech signee who is averaging 30.2 points per game, did not play in that loss. He had 27 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three blocked shots in a 69-49 victory over Jonesboro in the semifinals. Nolley was the Region 5 player of the year this season. The 20-point win over Jonesboro was the Panthers’ most-lopsided game in the state tournament. They beat Allatoona, Lanier and Coffee in the first three rounds by an average of 7.7 points. “We’re really excited,” Hughes coach Rory Welsh said after the semifinal victory. “The finals are here, and it’s a great matchup with us and Gainesville, a repeat of the Elite Eight game from last year. We knew this matchup would be a potential, but our philosophy as a coaching staff is that we never skip a step.” 

Girls 

No. 1 Lovejoy (31-1) vs. No. 3 Harrison (26-4) 

(6 p.m. Friday, Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion) 

*Lovejoy: The Wildcats are in the championship game for the first time. In fact, they had never been beyond the second round until reaching the semifinals last season, when they were eliminated by eventual champion Mays 50-42. Lovejoy’s leader is sophomore guard Genesis Bryant, an honorable mention all-state selection last year and an almost certain first-teamer this year. She scored 33 points in the quarterfinal victory over Winder-Barrow and had 18 points, four rebounds and three steals in a 70-42 win over Northview in the semifinals. Bryant was the co-player of the year in Region 4. Kayla Brown had 16 points (8-for-8 shooting on field goals) and 10 rebounds against Northview. She is the only senior on the team’s 12-player roster, which includes eight freshmen or sophomores. “We still have one more to win,” Lovejoy coach Cedric King told Luke Strickland of the Clayton News-Daily. “We just have to trust our preparation, we have to prepare like it’s the last game. The one thing we’ve talked about since I took over the program was winning the last game. This is our first opportunity to win the last game, so now we have to take advantage of our opportunity.” 

*Harrison: The Hoyas are back in the championship game again after losing to Mays 52-51 in last year’s final and are seeking the first title in program history. Team leaders Harper Vick and Audrey Jordan were starters in the championship game last season, and Jordan led the team with 13 points. Point guard Vick scored 20 points and had eight rebounds in the team’s 68-54 victory over Douglas County last weekend in the semifinals. Sarah Woghiren has been the leading scorer throughout the playoffs and had 17 against Douglas County. Harrison has won 11 consecutive games since a 57-35 loss to Class AAAAA finalist Buford on Jan. 13. The Hoyas’ closest game in the playoffs was a 61-54 victory over fifth-ranked Lanier in the second round. “Their goals were to win region and make it back to this point,” Harrison coach Steve Lenahan told Adam Carrington of the Marietta Daily Journal. “That’s what they’ve been working toward. They’ve been playing better together come playoff time. They are confident because what they have been doing is working.” 

Semifinal statistics 

Here’s a look back at the semifinals. Statistics were provided by West Georgia Sports Information Services, LLC. 

Boys 

Gainesville 102, Heritage-Conyers 86 

Heritage (17-9) 

Ryan Clements 1-3 0-0 2, Josh Archer 8-18 10-11 30, Trelan Scott 4-15 6-6 14, JaQuez Hicks 2-3 3-3 7, Adrian Boykin 2-6 0-0 5, Samaje Jones 3-6 2-2 9, Micah Means 0-1 0-0 0, Charles Harper 0-0 1-1 1, Gabriel Grant 0-1 1-4 1, Josh Guilford 4-11 3-8 13, Jon Best 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 25-66 28-37 86. 

Gainesville (24-6) 

Jarred Rosser 4-6 5-9 13, Jarrell Rosser 4-6 8-9 16, Brent Kelly 3-4 2-4 8, Bailey Minor 3-6 0-0 6, Maurice Hector 0-0 1-1 1, Kajuan Hale 3-4 3-4 10, KJ Buffen 4-5 0-3 8, Austin Long 0-1 0-0 0, Xavier Bledson 1-7 16-17 18, Rafael Rubel 9-12 1-1 22. Totals 31-51 36-48 102. 

Heritage – 15-15-31-25 – 86 

Gainesville – 22-31-22-27 – 102 

3-point goals – Heritage 8-21 (Josh Archer 4-7, Trelan Scott 0-3, Adrian Boykin 1-2, Samaje Jones 1-2, Josh Guilford 2-7), Gainesville 4-14 (Jarred Rosser 0-1, Kelly 0-1, Minor 0-1, Hale 1-1, Buffen 0-1, Long 0-1, Bledson 0-2, Rubel 3-6). Rebounds – Heritage 33 (Scott 6), Gainesville 38 (Bledson 12). Assists – Heritage 7 (Archer 2, Guilford 2), Gainesville 19 (Bledson 8). Total fouls – Heritage 35, Gainesville 29. Technical fouls – Heritage 1 (Hicks), Gainesville 3 (Buffen, Jarrel Rosser, Team). 

Hughes 69, Jonesboro 49 

Hughes (26-5) 

Tyrel Morgan 5-12 0-0 10, Patrick Carter Jr. 3-4 1-1 9, Tyler Smith 5-10 1-1 11, Landers Nolley 9-15 5-7 27, Josh Butts 3-6 2-4 8, Papa Samba 1-1 0-0 2, Chris Todd 0-0 0-0 0, Armani Bolston 0-0 0-0 0, Ahmaude Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Marcus Samuel 1-1 0-0 2, Dadrian Spain 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-50 9-13 69. 

Jonesboro (23-9) 

Meco Lucas 1-4 0-1 3, Jamari Smith 7-16 6-7 20, Miles Black 5-12 0-0 11, Brandon Walker 2-13 0-0 4, Jamari Mosley 2-5 3-4 7, Dushawn Ellerbee 0-2 2-2 2, Marcos East 1-6 0-0 2. Totals 18-58 11-14 49. 

Hughes – 11-19-13-26 – 69 

Jonesboro – 11-13-12-13 – 49 

3-point goals – Hughes 6-12 (Morgan 0-2, Carter 2-2, Nolley 4-8), Jonesboro 2-16 (Lucas 1-2, Black 1-5, Walker 0-8, Ellerbee 0-1). Rebounds – Hughes 30 (Morgan 7, Butts 7), Jonesboro 37 (Smith 16). Assists – Hughes 18 (Nolley 7), Jonesboro 4 (Black 2). Totals fouls – Hughes 14, Jonesboro 16. Technical fouls – Jonesboro 1 (Lucas). 

Girls 

Lovejoy 70, Northview 42 

Northview (24-7) 

Asjah Inniss 0-8 0-0 0, Eden Sample 5-10 0-0 11, Makayla Davis 2-5 0-0 6, Ashlee Austi 7-14 3-4 17, Maya Richards 2-10 4-6 8, Jada Reidling 0-0 0-0 0, Jade Buchanan 0-0 0-0 0, Camil Butler 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-48 7-10 42. 

Lovejoy (31-1) 

Genesis Bryant 5-11 7-8 18, Anaya Boyd 3-12 5-7 11, Avanna Preston 0-2 0-0 0, J’Auyanna Preston 8-10 0-0 10, Kayla Brown 8-8 0-2 16, Janiah Alexander 0-0 0-0 0, Lashanti Blunt 2-3 0-0 6, Mariah Spain 3-3 0-0 7, Asha Shareef 1-1 0-0 2, Kaziah Terrell 0-0 0-0 0, Sage White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-50 12-17 70. 

Northview – 10-7-18-7 – 42 

Lovejoy – 16-19-19-16 – 70 

3-point goals – Northview 3-14 (Inniss 0-4, Sample 1-3, Davis 2-5, Austin 0-2), Lovejoy 4-11 (Bryant 1-3, A. Preston 0-2, J. Preston 0-2, Blunt 2-3, Spain 1-1). Rebounds – Northview 27 (Austin 6, Richards 6), Lovejoy 31 (Brown 10). Assists – Northview 8 (Sample 2, Richards 2). Total fouls – Northview 16, Lovejoy 13. Technical fouls – None. 

Harrison 68, Douglas County 54 

Douglas County (24-7) 

Desirae Jackson 1-8 0-0 3, Michaela Cope 3-5 3-4 9, Alex Warner 0-5 2-3 2, Dymon Cook 3-13 0-0 7, Amari Robinson 8-18 5-6 21, Alana Gibbs 1-5 0-0 2, Sayah Brooks 2-4 0-0 6, Raven Mitchell 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 20-61 10-13 54. 

Harrison (26-4) 

Harper Vick 4-8 10-12 20, Eastyn King 3-4 1-2 7, Mae Williams 3-8 3-4 9, Sarah Woghiren 6-13 4-8 17, Audrey Jordan 3-13 4-9 10, Collette Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Meredith Ward 1-1 0-0 3, Arden Jordan 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Amara Newsom 0-0 0-0 0, Hannah DeWitt 0-0 0-0 0, Edith Gordon 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 21-50 22-35 68. 

Douglas County – 20-9-12-13 – 54 

Harrison – 20-16-22-10 – 68 

3-point goals – Douglas County 4-24 (Jackson 1-6, Cope 0-2, Warner 0-3, Cook 1-6, Robinson 0-3, Brooks 2-4), Harrison 4-10 (Vick 2-5, M. Williams 0-1, Woghiren 1-2, Audrey Jordan 0-1, Ward 1-1). Rebounds – Douglas County 35 (Robinson 11), Harrison 41 (King 9, Woghiren 9). Assists – Douglas County 9 (Cope 7), Harrison 5 (Vick 2, M. Williams 2). Totals fouls – Douglas County 19, Harrison 13. Technical fouls – None.


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