Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Predictions: Pebblebrook boys to win first title; McEachern girls to win 4th in row


Below are my round-by-round predictions of the Class AAAAAAA boys and girls state basketball tournaments.

Pebblebrook, despite its seven losses, will win the boys title. The Falcons are 6-2 vs. Top 10 teams. Those include Wheeler (3-0), Westlake (1-2), Norcross (1-0) and Berkmar (1-0).

Pebblebrook defeated Wheeler last week without Collin Sexton, the best player in this classification if not the state. Sexton, the McDonald’s All-American, returned in the Region 2 final and hit a 3-pointer that sent the Westlake game into overtime, where Pebblebrook avenged two losses and won the championship in the best Georgia basketball game of the season.

Pebblebrook’s other five losses are against out-of-state teams. That’s why Pebblebrook is ranked No. 2 ahead of Newton – despite Newton’s 26-1 record and No. 18 national ranking in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25.

Newton is 0-0 vs. Top 10 teams in AAAAAAA and 0-1 vs. teams outside the Top 10 (Shiloh).

Newton can beat anybody, and its national ranking is no fluke. Ask lower-class powers Southwest Atlanta Christian (91-60) and Liberty County (104-71), who were pounded by Newton. And this is a stronger Newton team that lost to Westlake 64-59 in the semifinals last year.

But Pebblebrook’s strength of schedule and experience in the state tournament (two straight runner-up finishes) will be huge assets over five rounds.

The tournament’s big game will be next week – assuming that Newton and Westlake get through to the second round. That would be No. 4 Westlake at No. 3 Newton.

We’re picking Newton to win with home-court advantage, knocking out the defending-champion Lions and advancing to the finals. Could go either way.

Other key games to watch, if it unfolds as predicted, are Norcross vs. Pebblebrook and Wheeler vs. No. 1-ranked and undefeated McEachern in the quarters.

[Editorial] It’s a shame that those quarterfinals, especially those matching region champions, are not played on a neutral floor. Neither Pebblebrook nor Norcross deserves the advantage, or disadvantage, of somebody’s home gym when they are region champions. [/Editorial].

Only six teams – Pebblebrook, Newton, Westlake, Norcross, McEachern, Wheeler - are capable of winning the title, IMO. But watch for Collins Hill, a top-10 team with a great path to the semifinals. Collins Hills’ boys have never made a state final four.

The girls’ draw is much more balanced, meaning fewer early showdowns and the best teams making the quarterfinals and semifinals.

No. 1 Norcross (25-2 and ranked No. 10 nationally by MaxPreps) and McEachern (21-6 and three-time defending champions) are the clear teams to beat and should meet in the final.

Expect McEachern to come out on top, winning its fourth straight state championship, which would be a first in the highest class since Lowndes (1977-80).

Norcross beat McEachern 57-53 on Nov. 19, but that was Norcross’s third game and McEachern’s first. McEachern has played a tougher schedule overall (although both have played tough national schedules). McEachern has not lost to a Georgia team since (nor has Norcross).

Collins Hill has similar talent to McEachern and Norcross but is younger and slumping, having lost games the past two weeks to Mill Creek and Duluth.

Archer and Lambert also are contenders.

BOYS

FIRST ROUND

R6/#2 Collins Hill d. R8/#3 Grayson

R4/#1 Etowah d. R2/#4 Campbell

R3/#2 Hillgrove d. R1/#3 Lowndes

R7/#4 Brookwood d. R5/#1 Milton

R8/#2 Shiloh d. R6/#3 Duluth

R2/#1 Pebblebrook d. R4/#4 Lassiter

R1/#2 Colquitt County d. R3/#3 Kennesaw Mountain

R7/#1 Norcross d. R5/#4 West Forsyth

R2/#2 Westlake d. R4/#3 Roswell

R8/#1 Newton d. R6/#4 Peachtree Ridge

R7/#2 Berkmar d. R5/#3 South Forsyth

R1/#1 Tift County d. R3/#4 Marietta

R2/#3 Wheeler d. R4/#2 Cherokee

R6/#1 Mountain View d. R8/#4 South Gwinnett

R5/#2 Lambert d. R7/#3 Meadowcreek

R3/#1 McEachern d. wc-Mill Creek

SECOND ROUND

Collins Hill d. Etowah

Hillgrove d. Brookwood

Pebblebrook d. Shiloh

Norcross d. Colquitt County

Newton d. Westlake

Tift County d. Berkmar

Wheeler d. Mountain View

McEachern d. Lambert

QUARTERFINALS

Collins Hill d. Hillgrove

Pebblebrook d. Norcross

Newton d. Tift County

McEachern d. Wheeler

SEMIFINALS

Pebblebrook d. Collins Hill

Newton d. McEachern

FINAL

Pebblebrook d. Newton

GIRLS

FIRST ROUND

R6/#2 Collins Hill d. R8/#3 Grayson

R4/#1 Cherokee d. R2/#4 Campbell

R3/#2 Hillgrove d. R1/#3 Tift County

R5/#1 Lambert d. R7/#4 Central Gwinnett

R8/#2 Newton d. R6/#3 Duluth

R2/#1 Westlake d. R4/#4 Roswell

R1/#2 Lowndes d. R3/#3 Marietta

R7/#1 Norcross d. R5/#4 West Forsyth

R2/#2 Pebblebrook d. R4/#3 Woodstock

R8/#1 Archer d. R6/#4 Mountain View

R7/#2 Brookwood d. R5/#3 South Forsyth

R1/#1 Colquitt County d. R3/#4 North Cobb

R2/#3 Wheeler d. R4/#2 Etowah

R6/#1 Mill Creek d. R8/#4 Rockdale County

R5/#2 North Forsyth d. R7/#3 Parkview

R3/#1 McEachern d. wc-South Gwinnett

SECOND ROUND

Collins Hill d. Cherokee

Lambert d. Hillgrove

Westlake d. Newton

Norcross d. Lowndes

Archer d. Pebblebrook

Brookwood d. Colquitt County

Mill Creek d. Wheeler

McEachern d. North Forsyth

THIRD ROUND

Collins Hill d. Lambert

Norcross d. Westlake

Archer d. Brookwood

McEachern d. Mill Creek

SEMIFINALS

Norcross d. Collins Hill

McEachern d. Archer

FINAL

McEachern d. Norcross

 


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