The Class AAA basketball season is nearing crunch time of region competition, and things are heating up all across the state as the holiday tournaments keep teams fresh throughout the winter break.
Here are some of the hottest boys' and girls' teams making moves across the state.
-- No. 1 Morgan County: The Bulldogs are 7-0. Their season has been highlighted by a huge victory against Buford Nov. 21 (57-54) and a closely contested matchup against Westlake (67-61) on Nov. 24. The Bulldogs won the Class AAA title in 2014 and 2016 and were the runner-ups last season, falling to Wendell Carter’s Pace Academy (54-46). Carter is playing at Duke.
-- No. 3 Johnson-Savannah: The Atom Smashers advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year before falling to eventual champion Pace Academy. This year, the 8-2 Atom Smashers dropped games to Jenkins (88-52) Dec. 18 and Lithonia (60-51) Dec. 2. Through 10 games, Shamar Jones leads Johnson with 18.4 points per game. Georgia signee Amanze Ngumezi is averaging 16.6 points per game. Senior Eleik Bowles adds 11.4 points per game, and freshman Emondre Bowles is at 10.7 points per game.
-- No. 6 Greater Atlanta Christian: The 7-3 Spartans have big victories against Brookwood (70-39) and Mill Creek (71-70) in overtime. The first loss came against Peachtree Ridge (68-61) in a closely contested game that could have gone either way. The next two games provided victories against Marist and North Hall, before the Spartan fell to East Hall, 88-74. Victories against Fayette County (78-51) and Landmark Christian (97-63) got the momentum rolling, but a 62-57 loss to Trinity Christian in the War Eagle Classic at Woodward Academy dampened the run.
-- No. 2 Jenkins: The Warriors opened the season with a loss to Hoover, AL (59-58) before getting back on track with victories against Southeast Bulloch, Groves and Islands before falling to Savannah-rival Johnson on Dec. 8. Jenkins got revenge on Dec. 18 with a 88-52 thrashing of the Atom Smashers, which pushed the Warriors past Johnson in the polls.
-- No. 4 Cedar Grove: The Saints opened their season with losses to Berkmar (54-46) and Milton (66-60) before getting things turned around against Lovett on Nov. 28 with a 56-46 victory. On Dec. 5, Cedar Grove went on the road to Pace Academy and defeated the defending-champion Knights (48-33) in a Region 5 matchup. The Saints will face Jonesboro on Friday in the Peach State Classic at Jackson-Atlanta.
The storylines already are building around the top two teams – the defending-champion Beach Lady Bulldogs and 2016 semifinalist, the Greater Atlanta Christian Lady Spartans. In last year’s semifinals at Armstrong Atlantic in Savannah, a scorebook error could have cost GAC the semifinal game and championship berth, and almost a year later, the teams are ranked No. 1 and No. 2.
Here are some girls' teams to watch:
-- No. 1 Beach: Jabreika Bass leads the top-ranked Beach Bulldogs with 10.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.5 steals per game. Senior Tatiyanna Morris averages 10.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game. The Lady Bulldogs are coming off a loss to crosstown rival Johnson on Dec. 18 (48-43) after defeating Johnson on Dec. 12 (53-42). Beach will take the court again Jan. 1 against Baldwin at the Big South Shootout in Duluth.
-- No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian: GAC is led by senior Robyn Benton, who through eight games has averaged 17.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 3.1 assists per game. Caria Reynolds helps with 13.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Taylor Sutton adds 12.2 points per game. Mary Martha Turner is averaging 11.9 points per game, and Kennedi Williams adds almost 10 points per game.
-- No. 3 Franklin County: The Lady Lions are flawless through 10 games and have not been challenged. The 17-point victory Dec. 5 at White County (67-50) marked the closest margin on the season. Franklin will face Aquinas on Dec. 28 at Evans High School.
-- No. 4 Johnson-Savannah: The state champion runner-ups are poised for yet another deep playoff run. Last year, the Lady Atom Smashers fell to Beach in the championship game, which marked the fifth meeting between the Savannah rivals. This year, the Atom Smashers and the Bulldogs have split two games.
-- No. 5 Lovett: Last season, the Lady Lions fell to Dawson County in the opening round of the playoffs. This season, look for Lovett to hang around a bit longer. Before falling to Dutch Fork (S.C.) 50-42 Dec. 21, the Lady Lions had won nine in a row, including victories against Landmark Christian, Cedar Grove, Marist and Thomson. Lovett will face Greenbrier Friday in the Savannah River Shootout Christmas Classic.