Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

7A girls basketball: A look at the region races, quirky state-playoff bracket

Three girls basketball regions in the highest classification have games that might determine the regular-season champion while five others would require a major upset to prevent the front-runner from running the table unbeaten in region play.

Below is a look at each region with news about what’s upcoming, including a pretty good non-region game between second-ranked Collins Hill and a Class A power on Saturday.

One thing to consider while reading is the Class AAAAAAA girls playoff bracket, which pairs region champions for the quarterfinals in this manner: 7 vs. 3, 8 vs. 4, 5 vs. 1, 6 vs. 2.

That would translate into something like this:

Norcross vs. McEachern, Hillgrove or North Cobb

Cherokee vs. Newton or South Gwinnett

North Forsyth vs. Colquitt County or Lowndes

Westlake vs. Collins Hill

Or more to the point, the elite eight easily might have No. 1 Westlake vs. No. 2 Collins Hill in one quarter and No.3 Norcross vs. four-time champion McEachern in another. Quarterfinal games are played in home gyms. A coin toss will decide the home team if both are No. 1 seeds.

That's a ways off, but something to think about.

Meanwhile, here is how things are shaping up in each region:

Region 1 - No. 8 Colquitt County (17-4, 3-0) plays at Lowndes (15-4, 3-0) on Tuesday. They play again Feb. 2. Colquitt is the defending region champion. Senior Diamond Hall (17.1 points per game, 9.5 rebounds) is having a big year for the Packers.

Region 2 – No. 1-ranked Westlake (18-1, 6-0) plays Wheeler (14-6, 4-2) on Tuesday at home. This falls into the category of requiring a major upset, not a game likely to decide the champion. Westlake beat Wheeler by 25 on Jan. 4 and recently clocked Campbell (14-6, 4-2) 80-32. Westlake is No. 23 in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25, the only Georgia team in the rankings. Westlake starts four seniors and a freshman, Raven Johnson, who averages 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 steals.

Region 3 - Big week ahead: No. 10 McEachern (12-5, 3-1) plays at No. 9 Hillgrove (12-4, 4-0) on Wednesday. Hillgrove plays at North Cobb (15-1, 3-1) on Friday. McEachern plays at North Cobb on Saturday. Hillgrove leads the region, and North Cobb beat McEachern, but McEachern is the four-time defending state champion here. What's more, the team just returned Indiana-signed guard Chantel Wilson, who hadn't played since last winter's ACL injury. If the Indians are up for defending their title, the proof should come out in the next few days.

Region 4 - No. 4 Cherokee (18-2, 6-0) is four wins from a perfect finish in the region. Only Friday’s opponent, Woodstock (10-7, 2-2), has a winning record. Cherokee is tradionally good but rarely great, with only two runs to the quarterfinals (2013, 2015) the past 10 years. But this team likely has the talent and the draw to go deeper, and if not this season, the next. The team has a returning all-state point guard (Olivia Herrera), an all-county transfer from Etowah (Sydney Watts), another all-county player who missed last season with an injury (Lacie McCoy) and a a 6-3 freshman (Kate Johnson), The Cherokee Tribune had a good story on the Warriors a few days ago.

Region 5 – No. 5 North Forsyth (18-2, 6-0) plays at second-place South Forsyth (13-8, 4-2) on Friday. North won the first meeting by 22. North also beat Lambert 46-30 last week. That was significant because North had beaten Lambert by only one the previous time, although key starter Cassie Markle missed that game injured. North Forsyth returned three starters from a sweet-16 team and got a big boost this season when home-schooler Catherine Shope enrolled. She made 11 three-pointers in a game earlier this season.

Region 6 -- No. 2 Collins Hill (17-2, 8-0) plays at Mountain View (15-5, 7-1) on Friday, then St. Francis on Saturday. Collins Hill beat Mountain View 81-33 on Dec. 12, so most will be more interested in the matchup with St. Francis, the No. 3 in the Class A private-school rankings. St. Francis has won three of the past five state titles in that division. Collins Hill, looking for its first state title since Maya Moore wore the green and silver, has the classification’s most high-profile roster. Jada Rice, a 6-2 forward, has signed with N.C. State. Junior point guard Bria Harmon is going to Purdue. Javyn Nicholson, a 6-1 forward, is committed to Georgia.

Region 7 - Norcross moved up two spots in the rankings to No. 3 this week, largely on the strength of a 62-58 victory over defending AAAAA champion Buford last week. Norcross (18-3, 8-0) has won six straight. Its only losses are to Miami (ranked No. 9 in Florida’s Class 9A), Wesleyan Christian (No. 7 overall team in North Carolina) and Greater Atlanta Christian, the No. 1 team in Georgia’s Class AAA. There is little in Norcross’s way to the region’s No. 1 seed until perhaps a rematch against Parkview (15-8, 6-3) on Feb. 2. Norcross won by 25 the last time they met.

Region 8 – The best game this week in the high class is No. 7 South Gwinnett (17-1, 4-1) at No. 6 Newton (16-2, 5-0) on Thursday. Newton won the first meeting 61-58. South Gwinnett has won 11 straight games since. South Gwinnett hasn't won a playoff game in 10 years, and this is the Comets' chance. They start four seniors and a freshman, Makala Torrence.


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