Class AAA blog: Teams jockey for position at top of boys’ AJC rankings

Several teams have emerged from the Class AAA pack as the high school basketball heads toward the meat of the season. Here’s a look at the top five boys programs and how they have moved to the top:

-- No. 1 Pace Academy (12-4, 5-0): The top-ranked Knights are two seasons removed from back-to-back state championships (2016 in Class AA; 2017 in AAA), and Pace looks to be on track for a deep run into the playoffs. Four-star Matthew Cleveland, a 6-foot-6 junior guard, leads Pace with 22.5 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals per game. Junior Cole Middleton, a 6-6 power forward, averages 12 points, 10 rebounds and nearly two blocks. Pace is coming off an 83-65 victory against Tennessee’s Christ Presbyterian in the NXT LVL Hoopsfest in Nashville on Dec. 30. The Knights will open play in the new year Tuesday, when they host Cedar Grove in a Region 5 game. Pace leads 5-AAA at 5-0, ahead of Westminster (4-1) and Lovett (3-2).

-- No. 2 Hart County (15-0, 5-0): Hart County’s last loss came against Morgan County in the AAA state championship game last season. The flawless Bulldogs are coming off a 60-46 victory against Madison County on Saturday and will host Franklin County on Tuesday. During the holidays, Hart County hosted and won the 12th Annual McDonald’s Shootout with victories against Cross Keys, Woodmont, S.C., and Wade Hampton, S.C., in the championship game. Hart is on top of the 8-AAA standings at 5-0, ahead of Franklin County (4-1).

-- No. 3 Johnson-Savannah (13-3, 8-0): Johnson started the new year Friday with a 75-72 victory against No. 5 Windsor Forest in an important Region 3 game. It followed with a 101-43 victory against Islands on Saturday. Johnson will travel to Beach on Tuesday for a Region 3 game. The Atomsmashers lead the region at 8-0, ahead of Windsor Forest (6-2) and Beach (6-2).

-- No. 4 Dawson County (15-2, 5-0): Dawson opened the new year Friday with a 64-61 victory at home against Cherokee Bluff in a 7-AAA game. The Tigers will play at home against region foe East Hall on Tuesday. Dawson leads the region at 5-0, ahead of GAC (4-1) and North Hall (3-2). The Tigers will travel to Fannin County on Friday before playing at home against GAC on Jan. 14. 

-- No. 5 Windsor Forest (12-4, 6-2): Windsor Forest lost 75-72 to local-rival Johnson-Savannah on Friday, but rebounded with an 84-43 victory at Groves on Saturday. The Knights will travel to Savannah on Tuesday for a 3-AAA game. Johnson leads the region at 8-0, with Windsor Forest and Beach tied at 6-2. Windsor Forest will play at home against Beach on Jan. 14 for a chance to break the tie.

(Coming Friday: A look at the top girls teams)

Class AAA boys rankings

1. Pace Academy (12-4)

2. Hart County (15-0)

3. Johnson-Savannah (13-3)

4. Dawson County (15-2)

5. Windsor Forest (11-4)

6. Franklin County (13-3)

7. Westminster (11-5)

8. Lovett (11-4)

9. Greater Atlanta Christian (10-5)

10. Monroe (9-4)

Class AAA girls rankings

1. Johnson-Savannah (11-1)

2. Jefferson (14-3)

3. Beach (11-5)

4. Fannin County (12-3)

5. Cedar Grove (8-3)

6. Greater Atlanta Christian (7-9)

7. Dawson County (10-6)

8. Sonoraville (11-5)

9. Coahulla Creek (13-2)

10. Pierce County (11-2)

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