Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two classic matchups showcase Class AAA finals

The Class AAA basketball season has been a wild ride and now it is down to four teams, two girls teams and two boys and a trip to Athens.

Pace punched its ticket to the Class AAA title game after defeating Class AAAA defending champions Liberty County, 71-62, at Armstrong Atlantic in Savannah on March 4.

Pace Academy, the defending Class AA champions, play defending AAA champs Morgan County at 4 p.m. Thursday at Stegeman Coliseum at the University of Georgia.

"Morgan County is a pretty good team," Pace coach Demetrius Smith said. "They are a guard-oriented team with good shooters and good ball-handlers, but it should be a pretty good game for us."

The Knights are led by McDonald's All-American and Duke signee Wendell Carter Jr. Carter, a 6-foot-10 powerforward, was one of the most highly recruited players in the nation.

But Carter, as coach Demetrius Smith knows all too well, is not Pace's only scoring option. In the victory against Liberty, 6-6 junior power forward Isaiah Kelly made his presence known on the offensive side.

"We are looking for a team victory," Smith said. "Isaiah had 19 points (in the semifinals), and several others had six points. Of course Wendell is going to do his thing, but everyone else has to step up and play hard to win."

Morgan County won the 2015-16 Class AAA state title game, 65-56, against Jenkins and will look to make the most of the return trip to the championship game.

Morgan has not really been challenged in the tournament. The Bulldogs have defeated Adairsville, 71-40, Tattnall County, 82-55, Lovett, 70-49, and Calhoun, 72-61.

On the girls' side of the bracket, the rematch we have all been waiting for has materialized. It's Johnson-Savannah vs. Beach, Round 5. Both teams have won twice against each other during the regular season.

The average margin of victory for all four games: four points. The number of games that went to overtime: Two. This next game is a toss-up.

Beach moved past the Greater Atlanta Christian Lady Spartans 56-47 in overtime to punch its ticket to the championship game at 2 p.m. Thursday at UGA.

The Lady Bulldogs stormed through the first two rounds, beating Dougherty, 61-33, and Redan, 61-41. Then Beach met the Chargers of Central-Macon in the quarterfinals and just squeaked by, 46-45, which set up the semifinal game against GAC.

Johnson-Savannah defeated Morgan County 48-39 to advance to the title game.

Johnson cruised through the first two rounds, defeating Crisp, 79-27, and North Hall, 64-38. A 70-66 scare from Peach County in the quarterfinals set up the semifinal game against Morgan.

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