Basketball state tournament primer: No. 1 Grayson boys, girls are headliners

Oliver Gerard (Alcovy) dunks the ball during Slam Dunk Contest championship at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Hyosub Shin /



Oliver Gerard (Alcovy) dunks the ball during Slam Dunk Contest championship at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Hyosub Shin /

Grayson’s boys and girls teams, each ranked No. 1 in Class 7A and seeking their first state championships, headline the state basketball tournament, which begins Tuesday and Wednesday with 256 games that launch the five-round march to the March 6-9 finals in Macon.

For the first time in decades, there is no first-time qualifiers as all 512 teams have made it before. There’s still history to be made as 15 boys teams and 12 girls teams in the field have never advanced a round.

Grayson wouldn’t be the first school to sweep boys and girls championships, even in the highest class, but any team that beats them would be the first in Georgia to do it this season. The boys are No. 12 and the girls are No. 8 in MaxPreps’ national rankings this week.

Here’s a look at the tournament with a spotlight on the opening round.

Teams to beat (boys): The No. 1-ranked teams are Grayson (7A), Alexander (6A), Kell (5A), McDonough (4A), Sandy Creek (3A), Westside-Augusta (2A), Mount Vernon (A Division I) and Greenforest Christian (A Division II). Alexander, Kell, Sandy Creek and Westside are defending champions. Grayson, McDonough and Mount Vernon have never won.

Teams to beat (girls): The No. 1-ranked teams are Grayson (Class 7A), River Ridge (6A), Union Grove (5A), Baldwin (4A), Hebron Christian (3A), Mount Paran Christian (2A), St. Francis (A Division I) and Greenforest Christian (A Division II) are defending champions. Grayson, Union Grove and Greenforest have never won.

Drought-breakers (boys): Teams making their first state-tournament appearances in more than 10 years are Columbus (1999), Johnson (2007) and Fannin County (2008).

Drought-breakers (girls) McNair, last appearing in 2000, is breaking the longest dry spell. Next are Creekside (2003), Harlem (2009), Milton (2011) and Jordan (2012).

Who’s missing: Defending Class A Division I boys champion King’s Ridge Christian and three other boys teams ranked last week – Winder-Barrow, Mount Bethel Christian and Seminole County – failed to qualify from their region tournaments. Laney’s girls failed to make it for the first time since 2000.

Best first-round matchups (boys): Third-ranked Lee County of 6A is at home against Riverwood, a 20-6 team that just dropped out of the rankings after a bad region tournament. No. 4 Cedar Grove travels to No. 7 Hebron Christian in 3A, and No. 5 St. Francis plays at No. 3 Darlington in Class A Division I.

Best first-round matchups (girls): Games between top-10 teams are No. 10 Warner Robins at No. 9 Harris County in Class 6A and No. 6 Terrell County at No. 4 Wilcox County in Class A Division II. Sequoyah is playing at Lassiter in a game between former top-10 teams that fell out this week.

Here’s your chance (boys): Camden County, Gilmer and Twiggs County are region champions that haven’t won state playoff games in decades. Camden County, ranked No. 9 in Class 7A, last won in 1975 and plays at home against Archer, a 20-8 team that has been ranked most of the season. Gilmer, the No. 10 team in Class 3A and a first-ever region champion, plays Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. Gilmer last advanced in 1958. Twiggs, an unranked Class A team with no state wins in its history, is a region champion playing at home against Towns County.

Here’s your chance (girls): Portal is 11-15 but can make history at home if the Panthers can beat Turner County. Portal hasn’t won a girls state playoff game since 1948.

What’s next: The second round will be Friday and Saturday at the home courts of the higher-seeded teams.

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Thanks to Becky Taylor of the Georgia Basketball Project and the Tifton Gazette for some of the basketball history in this article.