Class 3A blog: Some big questions that need some big answers

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Q. If you had to choose now, which Class 3A boys and girls teams would be favored in the upcoming state tournament?

A. It is hard to overlook the top-ranked Sandy Creek boys, a program that dropped down from Class 4A this season. The Patriots are 19-4 and 12-0 in 5-3A. Sandy Creek has not lost since a 63-59 defeat to 7A Newton. The Patriots’ 5-star Auburn-signee Jabari Smith is 6-foot-10 and formidable in all aspects of play. Rated as the No. 5 recruit nationally, Smith averages 23.4 points and 10 rebounds per game with three blocks and three assists. Point guard Myles Rice, a 3-star Washington State signee, averages 19 points with five rebounds and six assists.

Another favorite is No. 2 Hart County, the front-runner from Region 8. If Sandy Creek wins the No. 1 seed from 5-3A and Hart controls 8-3A – and assuming each wins the first two games in the state tournament – the No. 1 and No. 2 teams will meet in the semifinals on the left side of the bracket.

On the girls side, top-ranked Upson-Lee has not been beaten (18-0, 13-0) and leads the 2-3A standings (see more on the Upson girls below). No. 2 Lumpkin County (20-4, 11-1) is another favorite. The Indians are riding a nine-game winning streak entering the final week of the season.

It’s also hard to overlook Savannah programs No. 7 Johnson (9-2. 5-1) and No. 9 Beach (10-3, 6-0). Historically, both teams seem to make a run through the tournament brackets. Beach won the 3A state title in 2017 before Johnson won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. Last season, Beach lost to Greater Atlanta Christian in the state title game, and Johnson lost to GAC in the semifinals.

Q. Is the No. 1-ranked Upson-Lee girls team as good as advertised, and could it follow the champion 2017 and 2018 boys to bring another state title to Thomaston?

A. It would not shock me in the slightest. The Knights have four players – all seniors -- averaging double-figures, led by Jakera Ellerbee (16.2 points, 12 rebounds). Ja’Khia Parker (13 points, 10 rebounds), Tyla Zellner (12 points, six rebounds) and Alonzea Montgomery (11 points, six assists, three steals) provide depth for the Knights.

Q. Has COVID 19 had any impact on next week’s region tournaments?

A. At last check, Region 3 was the only region to make a change to the end of the season after canceling remaining regular-season games this week. The Savannah region features the No. 3 Windsor Forest and No. 4 Johnson boys and the No. 7 Johnson and No. 9 Beach girls and plans to hold a region tournament to decide its four seeds. Otherwise, regions are carrying on as planned.

Q. Are there any dark-horse boys teams that could contend the state title?

A. No. 3 Windsor Forest has only played 10 games this season, compared to 23 for top-ranked Sandy Creek and 20 for No. 2 Hart County. But the third-ranked Knights have the talent to make a run. Senior Shamar Norman leads the team with 19 points; junior D’Ante Bass averages 17 points with 12 rebounds, and senior Ray Williams scores 12 points per game. But do I think it is likely that the state champion will come from the winner of the Sandy Creek-Hart County semifinal game? Yes.

Q. What about on the girls side?

A. We have discussed Upson, Lumpkin, Johnson and Beach. From that list, I believe Johnson and Beach would be considered dark-horses. The teams haven’t played full schedules and will enter their region tournaments without having played since Jan. 30 (Beach) and Jan. 26 (Johnson). If history holds, the region tournament for 3-3A should come down to Johnson and Beach in the finals for the top two seeds. ... No. 3 Cross Creek (14-2, 10-0) has not lost since entering 4-3A play and has two players – senior Jordyn Dorsey (19 points) and freshman Micheala Bogans (10 points) – averaging double-figures. The Razorbacks dropped down from 4A last season after losing to Troup 46-45 in the second round of the playoffs. That experience could pay off in the post season.

Class 3A rankings

Boys

1. Sandy Creek (19-4)

2. Hart County (17-3)

3. Windsor Forest (8-2)

4. Johnson-Savannah (11-2)

5. Salem (14-4)

6. Cross Creek (16-4)

7. LaFayette (15-1)

8. Americus-Sumter (15-3)

9. White County (14-5)

10. Monroe Area (15-8)

Girls

1. Upson-Lee (18-0)

2. Lumpkin County (20-4)

3. Cross Creek (14-2)

4. Sonoraville (18-4)

5. Coahulla Creek (20-2)

6. Westminster (12-1)

7. Johnson-Savannah (9-2)

8. Americus-Sumter (12-3)

9. Beach (10-3)

10. Burke County (11-3)

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