Norcross’ boys basketball team is only 15-7 and ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAAAA with a week left in the regular season, but this is a team to watch again in the state playoffs, as always. Norcross has played eight of its 22 games against out-of-state opponents and recently scored an impressive-to-say-the-least 75-65 victory over Roselle Catholic of New Jersey, the No. 21 team in the country in the MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 rankings.
Norcross will add to its out-of-state exposure on Saturday as the host school for the Peachtree Corners Invitational. Norcross will play Gray Collegiate, the No. 1-ranked team in South Carolina’s Class AA.
Wheeler, ranked No. 6 in AAAAAAA, will play Washington, D.C., power Gonzaga.
Also attending are Class AAA No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian to face North Carolina Class AAAA defending champion Independence of Charlotte, and Class AAAAA No. 1 Buford to face River View, the No. 1 team in South Carolina’s AAAA.
Some of the marquee players will include Kyle Sturdivant (signed with Southern Cal) and Brandon Boston (five-star junior) of Norcross, Marcus Watson (Oklahoma State) of Buford, Malcolm Wilson (Georgetown) of Ridge View and Juwan Gary (Alabama) of Gray Academy.
3:30 p.m. - Greater Atlanta Christian vs. Independence (N.C.)
5 p.m. - Buford vs Ridge View (S.C.)
6:30 p.m. - Wheeler vs Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)
8 - Norcross vs Gray Collegiate (S.C.)
Region races coming to a close
Here’s a look at how each region race is unfolding with about eight days left in the regular season. Region tournaments ultimately will determine state-playoff qualifiers and seeds, of course.
BOYS: Norcross-Meadowcreek on Feb. 1 is the best game left.
Region 1 – Tift County (14-7, 4-0) and Camden County (14-6, 3-1) will play at Tift on Feb. 1 perhaps to decide the No. 1 seed in this four-team region. Tift won their first meeting 70-63 on Jan. 11. It’s unusual for Camden to be a contender. The school hasn’t won a state-playoff game since 1986.
Region 2 – Third-ranked East Coweta (21-1, 7-1) has the region won if the Indians can finish strong against low-end teams Campbell and Newnan. It’s a region with No. 5 Pebblebrook, No. 6 Wheeler and Westlake, which has appeared in the top 10, as well.
Region 3 – McEachern is ranked No. 1 in AAAAAAA and No. 1 or No. 2 in most every national rankings. McEachern will clinch the No. 1 seed with a victory over unranked Marietta (14-8, 5-2) at home Friday night.
Region 4 – Unranked Roswell (19-4, 8-0) has clinched the No. 1 seed.
Region 5 – Good race happening here. Milton beat Lambert 73-52 on Tuesday. Malachi Martin scored 25 points. Donaven Hairston had 19 points, seven assists, four steals and four rebounds. Milton had lost to Lambert 71-66 in overtime on Dec. 14. Both are 6-1 in region play but unranked.
Region 6 – No. 9 Discovery (19-3, 9-0) plays second-place and unranked Peachtree Ridge (16-6, 7-2) on Feb. 1, but the race for the No. 1 seed probably will be over by then. Discovery, a 4-year-old school in Gwinnett County, returned all starters from its 11-15 team and is virtually assured of its first state-playoff berth.
Region 7 – No. 7 Norcross travels to No. 2 Meadowcreek (18-4, 10-0) on Friday, Feb. 1., in a rematch of the 2018 state-championship game won by Meadowcreek after Norcross had beaten the Mustangs twice in the regular season and once in the region tournament. Meadowcreek beat Norcross 63-55 on Dec. 10. This is easily the best boys game remaining on the regular-season slate. Meadowcreek’s Jalen Benjamin (signed with UAB), Jamir Chaplin (South Florida) and Damian Dunn (Temple) are signed seniors.
Region 8 – No. 4 Grayson (20-2, 7-0) can clinch the No. 1 seed with a victory over Shiloh (14-7, 6-2) on Friday night. Grayson won the first meeting 61-59 in overtime on Jan. 4.
GIRLS: All eight first-place teams are ranked, and only one (Norcross) has lost a region game.
Region 1 – No. 6 Colquitt County (17-2, 4-0) has clinched the No. 1 seed.
Region 2 – No. 1 Westlake (20-0, 7-0) is home on Tuesday against No. 8 Pebblebrook (18-3, 7-1). Westlake won the first meeting 75-50 on Jan. 11. Westlake has won 39 straight games not counting its post-season loss in the GEICO national championship last year. The Lions start five underclassmen on the current 20-0 squad led by sophomore Rachel Johnson, who averages 16.2 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Region 3 – No 4 North Cobb (20-1, 6-0) plays at unranked Hillgrove (15-6, 6-1) on Friday night to sort out first place. North Cobb won their first meeting 46-44. North Cobb won its first 17 games before losing to Class A power Wesleyan on Jan. 12.
Region 4 – No. 5 Cherokee (20-3, 8-0) plays at unranked Roswell (17-6, 7-1) on Friday night. Cherokee won the first meeting 61-34 on Jan. 8.
Region 5 – No. 9 North Forsyth (17-4, 7-0) plays at unranked and second-place Forsyth Central (14-8, 5-2) on Friday night. North Forsyth won the first meeting 57-33 on Jan. 15.
Region 6 – Expect No. 2 Collins Hill (21-1, 10-0) to clinch the No. 1 seed with a victory over North Gwinnett (9-12, 4-5) on Friday night.
Region 7 – This is the only region in which the first-place has lost a region game. That occurred when No. 7 Brookwood (15-6, 7-2) defeated No. 10 Norcross (14-9, 9-1) 54-44 last week. But Norcross is expected to win out, so these teams that split their regular-season games won’t renew hostilities until the region tournament with Norcross as the No. 1 seed.
Region 8 – No. 3 Grayson (20-2, 7-0) plays at Rockdale County (13-9, 5-2) on Friday, Feb. 1, but Grayson likely will clinch the No. 1 seed with victories over Shiloh and South Gwinnett before that.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.