Miller Grove and Allatoona boys, SWD girls enter as favorites

ajc.com

Credit: Stephen Black - Score Atlanta

The state basketball tournaments begin with first-round play on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here’s a look at the Class AAAAA boys and girls brackets.

The favorites

*Boys: The road to the championship seemingly always runs through Miller Grove. The second-ranked Wolverines are 25-2 overall but undefeated against Georgia teams this season. Their loss to Warner Robins in the quarterfinals in 2015 ended their bid for a seventh consecutive state title in the second-largest classification.  Top-ranked Allatoona (27-0) is one of only two Georgia teams, boy or girls, that went through the regular season and region tournaments undefeated (the Class AAA No. 1 Calhoun boys are the other). Allatoona lost to Brunswick in the state final last season.

*Girls: Southwest DeKalb (22-6) has more losses than any No. 1-ranked team in the state, but five of the losses came against out-of-state competition and the other came against Class AAAAAA No. 2 Norcross. The Panthers won four state championships and had two runner-up finishes in a seven-year span between 2008 and 2014. They lost to Forest Park in the second round last season.

Other teams to watch

*Boys: Third-ranked Cedar Shoals and No. 4 McIntosh are red hot coming into the playoffs after rolling through their region tournaments. Cedar Shoals went 23-2 in the regular and then won its three games in the 8-AAAAA tournament by an average of 16.3 points, including a convincing 70-48 blowout of fifth-ranked Gainesville in the final.  McIntosh (26-2) had an even easier time in the 4-AAAAA tournament, winning its three games by an average of 25 points and holding its opponents to 40.3 points per game.

*Girls: Second-ranked Flowery Branch (27-1) has never advanced past the state quarterfinals, but this could be the Falcons' year. Flowery Branch rebounded from its only loss of the season, 60-48 against Gainesville on Jan. 8, with 11 consecutive victories, including two against Gainesville. No. 4 Grovetown also is 27-1 and seeking its first trip beyond the quarterfinals. The Warriors were dominant against a strong field in the 2-AAAAA tournament, beating Richmond Academy by 14, Northside-Warner Robins by 30 and Cross Creek by 17.

Best first-round games

*Heritage-Conyers at South Paulding (boys): Heritage started the season 15-1 but went 2-6 the rest of the regular season. The Patriots recovered in time to earn the No. 3 seed from 8-AAAAA, and they remain a first-round threat. Sixth-ranked South Paulding enters the tournament at 23-4, with three of the losses coming against Allatoona. Both teams were knocked out in the second round last year.

*Warner Robins at Glynn Academy (girls): This is the only first-round matchup between ranked girls teams in any classification. In fact, it matches teams that were both ranked No. 1 in AAAAA within the past month. No. 5 Warner Robins lost to Cross Creek in the 2-AAAAA semifinals and settled for the No. 3 seed, and No. 9 Glynn Academy lost to Brunswick in the 2-AAAAA final.

First-round pairings

(Check with the schools for game dates and times)

Boys

(R4 #3) Morrow at (R1 #2) Shaw

(R8 #4) Salem at (R5 #1) Allatoona

(R7 #3) Kell at (R6 #2) Southwest DeKalb

(R3 #4) Ware County at (R2 #1) Warner Robins

(R1 #3) Northside-Columbus at (R4 #2) Mundy’s Mill

(R5 #4) Hiram at (R8 #1) Cedar Shoals

(R6 #3) Mays at (R7 #2) Sequoyah

(R2 #4) Jones County at (R3 #1) Camden County

(R8 #3) Heritage-Conyers at (R5 #2) South Paulding

(R4 #4) Drew at (R1 #1) LaGrange

(R3 #3) Effingham County at (R2 #2) Richmond Academy

(R7 #4) Sprayberry at (R6 #1) Miller Grove

(R5 #3) Villa Rica at (R8 #2) Gainesville

(R1 #4) Carver-Columbus at (R4 #1) McIntosh

(R2 #3) Cross Creek at (R3 #1) Statesboro

(R6 #4) Tri-Cities at (R7 #1) Riverwood

Girls

(R4 #3) Morrow at (R1 #2) Carver-Columbus

(R8 #4) Winder-Barrow at (R5 #1) Villa Rica

(R7 #3) Kell at (R6 #2) Mays

(R3 #4) Camden County at (R2 #1) Grovetown

(R1 #3) Northside-Columbus at (R4 #2) Woodland-Stockbridge

(R5 #4) Lithia Springs at (R8 #1) Flowery Branch

(R6 #3) Stephenson at (R7 #2) Creekview

(R2 #4) Northside-Warner Robins at (R3 #1) Brunswick

(R8 #3) Gainesville at (R5 #2) Hiram

(R4 #4) Mundy’s Mill at (R1 #1) Columbus

(R3 #3) South Effingham at (R2 #2) Cross Creek

(R7 #4) Rome at (R6 #1) Southwest DeKalb

(R5 #3) South Paulding at (R8 #2) Loganville

(R1 #4) Harris County at (R4 #1) Dutchtown

(R2 #3) Warner Robins at (R3 #2) Glynn Academy

(R6 #4) Miller Grove at (R7 #1) Sequoyah