Class 1A Private blog: State playoffs preview

Title defense begins for Mount Pisgah boys, Hebron Christian girls

Round 1 of the state playoffs tips off Tuesday and Wednesday with a 32-team field. Last season, both the boys and girls produced first-time state champions with the Mount Pisgah boys and Hebron Christian girls taking home the hardware.

Can those programs repeat? The Mount Pisgah boys are ranked No. 4 in the last rankings release before the playoffs end, with Greenforest ranked No. 1.

The final girls rankings before champions are crowned were not made available at the time of this writing, so we’ll use last week’s rankings for this blog post. Holy Innocents’ was No. 1, with Hebron Christian at No. 4.

(For the boys state playoffs bracket, go here. For the girls, go here.)

Below is a quick quadrant-by-quadrant breakdown of what’s ahead:

Upper-left

Boys

This is where the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the state reside. As such, it can fairly be labeled, “The quadrant of death.” The No. 1 Greenforest Eagles (23-4) and No. 2 Galloway Scots are both No. 1 seeds, so if they meet it will be in the quarterfinals. The Eagles are champions of Region 2 and the Scots Region 5. Greenforest and Galloway didn’t play each other during the season, but according to the MaxPreps computer rankings, there’s a significant gap between the two. Greenforest has a rating of 25.3, with a strength of schedule rating of 12.9, While Galloway rates at 16.5 and 8.1, respectively.

I’ll give Galloway at least a small chance of emerging from the quadrant over Greenforest, but if I was a Vegas oddsmaker, I’d give the rest of the field a 0% chance of making it past both on the way to a semifinals berth.

Girls

This quadrant features just one ranked team, but it’s the top-ranked team, the Holy Innocents’ Golden Bears (23-2), who’s loss to St. Francis in last year’s semifinals ended their bid for three consecutive state championships. According to MaxPreps, the Golden Bears are the No. 1 overall team in the state, regardless of classification. Picking them as a favorite to reach the semis would appear to be a no-brainer.

However, there are plenty of dark horses with Tattnall Square, Calvary Day, Lakeview Academy, Prince Avenue Christian and Landmark Christian looking to make noise.

Lower-left

Boys

The defending champion and No. 4 Mount Pisgah Patriots (27-6), and No. 5 North Cobb Christian Eagles (17-7) headline this quadrant. They would meet in the quarterfinals after not playing each other in the regular season. However, the Patriots eliminated the Eagles 72-45 in the first round of last year’s state playoffs on the way to a title.

Flip a coin between those two as the favorites to emerge, with unranked George Walton, Southwest Atlanta Christian and Savannah Country Day as long shots.

Girls

This quadrant includes a top 10 matchup in Round 1 when the No. 6 Wesleyan Wolves (13-9) visit the No. 2 Mount Paran Eagles (20-4). No. 7 Trinity Christian (21-5) and No. 8 Deerfield Windsor (19-4) are also bracketed here. Should Deerfield-Windsor advance, it would play the Wesleyan-Mount Paran winner, making its path that much more difficult. Trinity Christian wouldn’t face one of the ranked teams until the quarterfinals, should it advance that far.

With four ranked teams in this bracket, it’s almost impossible to envision a dark horse emerging but if one did, it would likely be Fellowship Christian or George Walton.

Upper-right

Boys

This quadrant is the home to three ranked teams — No. 3 King’s Ridge (24-4), No. 7 Providence Christian and No. 8 Darlington. However, there’s no chance all three advance because No. 2 seed Providence and No. 3 seed Darlington play in the first round. That makes it a slightly easier path for No. 1 seed King’s Ridge — the favorite to win this quadrant.

Those with outside shots are unranked Calvary Day and ELCA.

Girls

With four ranked teams — No. 3 St. Francis (21-3), defending champs and No. 4 Hebron Christian (22-4), No. 9 Darlington (20-6) and No. 10 Savannah Country Day (21-4) — this is the, “Quadrant of death” on the girls’ side. In a tough pairing, Darlington gets Hebron Christian in Round 1. With coach Jan Azar and her 14 state tiles — 13 of which came at Wesleyan — Hebron Christian has to be a favorite to advance to the quarters, along with another perennial power in St. Francis, who has coach Aisha Kennedy. The Knights are looking for a 10th consecutive trip to the semifinals.

Teams flying under the radar that could do damage include Savannah Country Day, Brookstone, Athens Academy and Greenforest. It should be considered a miracle if any team other than Hebron Christian or St. Francis reach the semis, however.

Lower-right

Boys

No. 6 Christian Heritage and No. 10 First Presbyterian Day are the only two ranked teams in this quadrant, and should they advance, they’d face off in the second round after not playing each other in-season. The winner of that game will be the favorite to reach the semifinals.

Dark horses include St. Francis, Mount Vernon and Paideia.

Girls

With the other brackets hoarding nine of the top 10 teams, only one was leftover for this quadrant: the No. 5 Galloway Scots (15-9). The Scots should be the favorites to reach the semis, but could face a challenge from North Cobb Christian in Round 1. Stratford Academy and Tallulah Falls could also play the role of spoiler.