A look at the state championship matches

Here’s a look at Friday’s Class AAAAA championship games that will be played at the Macon Coliseum. The girls game features No. 1 Buford vs. No. 2 Villa Rica. The boys game offers No. 1 Buford vs. No. 5 Fayette County.

The games will not be televised, but are available for free at GPB.org

Boys: Buford (28-1) vs. Fayette County (26-5)

Buford has been the best team in the classification all season. Their losses have come to Carmel Christian (N.C.) in the semifinals of the Arby’s Classic in Tennessee and the mystifying loss to Loganville. The Wolves have reeled off 13 straight wins since that setback. 

There’s plenty of talent to like on the roster. Donnell Nixon stepped up his role with the graduation of Alex Jones and has flourished in the spotlight at point guard. Nixon was so good that he was voted Region 8 Player of the Year.

Throw in all-state forward Marcus Watson (an Oklahoma State signee) and all-region choices Eric Coleman and Ashton Young and the recipe is there for high success. 

Buford had no trouble in its first three games, beating Miller Grove (which eliminated the Wolves from the tournament last year) by 16, Villa Rica by 26 and Dutchtown by 34. It was a tougher grind against No. 2 Southwest DeKalb before Buford pulled away for a 59-50 win. 

Fayette County is coached by the underrated Andre Flynn, who took his team to the Final Four two seasons ago, where they were beaten soundly by Buford. There’s no question that game has been mentioned once or twice this week in Fayetteville.

The Tigers are fundamentally sound and played in a tough region. Fayette County came around the hard way after losing to Jonesboro in the Region 3 championship game. The Tigers have survived some scares to get here, starting with a two-point win over New Hampstead. After a 14-point win over Eagle’s Landing, they outlasted Kell 77-73 and beat Lithonia 69-62.

Fayette County is led by Region 3 Player of the Year Josh Dupree, who averages 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.2 steals. JeKobe Coleman leads the team in scoring (14.6 points) and Ricky Knight Jr. averages 13.1 points.

Click here to watch the live stream on GPB.org.

 Girls: Buford (28-2) vs. Villa Rica (32-0)

This looks a contest between Villa Rica’s Deasia Merrill, the most likely selection for the classification’s Player of the Year, and the swarming defense of Buford. It is unlikely that Villa Rica has seen the sort of frenetic attack it will witness in the championship game. 

Merrill, a 6-foot-2 senior, is the real deal. She has signed with Kentucky and is a prolific scorer, from outside and inside. She’s athletic, competitive and has great skills. Buford will try to neutralize Merrill and make some of other Wildcats – like Aliyah Hindsman and Tee Windom – pick up the scoring slack.

Buford doesn’t look intimidating during warmups. There’s no obvious centerpiece, like there was last year when they had Michigan State signee Tory Ozment. But the Wolves know only one speed and feast off turnovers, converting them into layups, and has another group of excellent 3-point shooters. Tate Walters, Ebony Grant and Preston Reid were all voted onto the All-Region 8 team. 

Buford is shooting for its third straight state championship. So far, the Wolves haven’t been tested; they beat Chamblee by 46, Carrollton by 30, Veterans by 15 and Southwest DeKalb by 13. Their only losses have come against Norcross, which reached the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals, and unbeaten Westlake, which is playing to defend its Class AAAAAAA championship. 

Click here to watch the live stream on GPB.org

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