Here’s how the top 10 girls teams in Class AAAAAAA are looking as they begin the new year and delve deeper into their region schedules.
What’s interesting is the high number of games this that will decide region front-runners.
*No. 1 Westlake plays No. 7 Pebblebrook in Region 2 (Friday)
*No. 2 Collins Hill plays Duluth in Region 6 (Tuesday)
*No. 3 North Cobb plays Hillgrove in Region 3 (Tuesday)
*No. 4 Grayson plays Rockdale County in Region 8 (Friday)
*No. 6 Cherokee plays Roswell in Region 5 (Tuesday)
All 10 teams are undefeated in region play.
Here’s the top 10 at a closer glance:
1. Westlake (14-0): Westlake won its first state title last season after years of knocking on the door under 22nd-year head coach Hilda Hankerson and has won 33 straight in-season games. (‘’In season’’ means that the post-season game at the GEICO nationals last year is being ignored here.) On Friday night, the Lions beat Milwaukee King, the No. 6 overall team in Wisconsin, in a tournament in Atlanta, and they resume region play this week. Westlake’s best victory this season is probably the one over Bradley Central, the No. 3 team overall in Tennessee. Westlake (2-0 in Region 2) should handle Newnan on Tuesday ahead of a big trip to No. 7 Pebblebrook (14-2, 3-0) on Friday. Westlake’s best player is sophomore Rachel Johnson, who is averaging right at 16 points and 10 rebounds per game.
2. Collins Hill (16-1): Collins Hill, which lost to eventual champion Westlake in the quarterfinals last year, is 89-13 over the past four seasons but hasn’t gotten past the semifinals since the days of Maya Moore over a decade ago. The current team, still well-stocked, has won 13 straight since losing to Charles Henderson, the No. 1 team in Alabama’s Class 5A. Point guard Brian Harmon, a Purdue signee, is a four-year starter.
3. North Cobb (15-0): North Cobb has gone out in the first round each of the past three seasons, but this appears to be the best Warriors’ best squad since the 2013 semifinal team. North Cobb has wins over No. 6 Cherokee, No. 7 Pebblebrook and No. 10 Marietta. North Cobb plays Hillgrove (10-5, 2-0) at home on Friday. The two are the only unbeaten teams in Region 3 play. But keep an eye on defending region champ McEachern despite its losing overall record. McEachern beat Florida’s No. 2 overall team, Montverde Academy, last week. North Cobb beat McEachern by 10 in their first meeting.
4. Grayson (13-2): Grayson won its first state-playoff game in 14 years last season and was stopped in the round of 16. Give credit to third-year coach Kim Potter, who had won a state title at Tucker before making the move into Gwinnett County. The current team had won 10 straight until falling Friday against Trinity Christian of Texas. The Rams’ other loss came against Buford, the No. 1 team in AAAAA, in December. Grayson (3-0 in Region 8) should handle South Gwinnett on Tuesday leading up to a big game Friday against Rockdale County (10-7, 3-0), which is coming off a 60-51 upset of No. 7 Pebblebrook on Friday. Grayson’s best all-around player has been senior Jazmin Robinson, who averages 14.5 points and 10 rebounds.
5. Norcross (11-7): Norcross, a state champion in 2010, 2011 and 2013, made the quarterfinals last season in a season of transition. Dani Wright, an interim coach last season, is officially the head coach now. Angie Hembree, one of the state’s most decorated coaches, has retired. Norcross has beaten No. 6 Cherokee and No. 1 Buford of AAAAA but lost to a couple of lower-classification teams, plus No. 2 Collins Hill in double overtime. Norcross (6-0 in Region 6) plays tied-for-second Central Gwinnett (11-5, 4-2) on Tuesday. Norcross guard Morgan Robinson-Nwagwu is committed to Auburn.
6. Cherokee (13-3): Cherokee made the quarterfinals for the third time in six seasons last year, and Matt Cates’ squad appears on target for that goal or better. Cherokee (3-0 in Region 4) can take charge of Region 4 this week if it can beat surging Roswell (12-5, 3-0) at home on Friday. Cherokee has won six straight games. Cherokee hasn’t beaten a top-10 team yet, though. It has lost to No. 5 Norcross by seven and No 3 North Cobb by one.
7. Pebblebrook (14-2): Pebblebrook’s seven-game winning streak ended Friday in a 60-51 loss to unranked Rockdale County. Pebblebrook is an up-and-coming team. Its three leading scorers are juniors. The Falcons will learn their status as a contender when they face No. 1 Westlake on Friday in a Region 2 game. Both are unbeaten in region play.
8. Colquitt County (11-2): Colquitt beat Camden County 62-58 in double overtime on Friday in its Region 1 opener. The Packers’ only losses are to Valdosta (twice), the No. 4 team in AAAAAA. Colquitt has made the round of 16 each of the past four seasons but not advanced past the quarterfinals in its history. Junior Janiah Ellis has scored 38 points in each of her past two games.
9. North Forsyth (11-4): North Forsyth made its first-ever semifinal last season and is probably the Region 5 favorite again. Caroline Martin and Ansley Allen were all-region and all-county players last season. They’re back. The Raiders were upset by Roswell 55-52 on Friday in a non-region game. But North Forsyth is a well-coached, junior-dominated team that will only improve.
10. Marietta (10-5): Marietta has lost Region 3 games to No. 3 North Cobb and No. 7 Pebblebrook, and its game Friday at home against rebuilding perennial power McEachern will tell a lot. Marietta has won a round in the playoffs each of the past two seasons and last made the quarters in 2014.