Class 3A blog: The absence of Beach girls tops pre-tournament storylines

Greater Atlanta Christian star Ava Irvin leaps in the air as the lights turn red when time expires in a 54-44 victory over Beach to win the Class 3A state basketball championship Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Macon.  (Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com)
Greater Atlanta Christian star Ava Irvin leaps in the air as the lights turn red when time expires in a 54-44 victory over Beach to win the Class 3A state basketball championship Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Macon. (Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Several storylines have emerged before the first round of the Class 3A state basketball tournament, and one absence is most notable: The Beach girls team will not be playing for a third state title after a postgame kerfuffle in the Region 3 tournament.

The Bulldogs defeated Savannah 50-35 in the region’s semifinals, but an ensuing fight ended both programs’ seasons and kept Beach, the state runner-up in 2020, out of the playoffs. Beach was ranked ninth in the class, 11-3 overall and 6-0 in the region.

That’s the biggest pre-tournament story, but first some key dates: The first round begins Tuesday and Wednesday, and the second round will take place Friday and Saturday. The quarterfinal round is March 2-3, and the semifinals, which will be held at schools this season instead of a neutral locations, take place March 5-6. The state championship game will be played Friday, March 12 at noon for the girls and 2:30 p.m. for the boys.

Let’s break down the bracket quadrants to see where the top programs landed:

Boys

Top-left quadrant: Top-ranked Sandy Creek is a heavy favorite in the boys bracket and will face Carver-Atlanta, Region 5′s No. 4 seed, in the first round. The other No. 1 seed in the top-left quadrant is No. 4 Johnson-Savannah, a team that could provide a challenge for Sandy Creek in the quarterfinals if both teams continue to advance. White County, ranked 10th, will host Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe in the first round, and a victory would produce a likely matchup against Sandy Creek.

Top-right quadrant: Three ranked programs – No. 7 Salem, No. 9 Dawson County and No. 3 Windsor Forest – will fight for supremacy of the quadrant. If Salem and Dawson County win their first-round games, the two teams will meet in the second round for a chance at a possible quarterfinal matchup with No. 3 Windsor Forest. Windsor would have to beat Upson-Lee and either Harlem or Appling County in the first two rounds to meet the winners of Oconee County/Salem and North Murray/Dawson County.

Bottom-left quadrant: Hart County’s boys will face Franklin County in the first round, and if the second-ranked Bulldogs win out in the first two rounds, the quarterfinal opponent could be No. 8 Peach County, the Region 2 No. 1 seed.

Bottom-right quadrant: No. 5 Cross Creek and No. 6 LaFayette are the two No. 1 seeds. Cross Creek took the Region 4 title, and LaFayette won Region 6. LaFayette will meet North Hall in the first round, and Cross Creek plays Tattnall County.

Boys first-round schedule

R4 #3 Hephzibah at R1 #2 Long County

R2 #4 Crisp County at R3 #1 No. 4 Johnson-Savannah

R6 #3 Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at R7 #2 No. 10 White County

R8 #4 Franklin County at R5 #1 No. 1 Sandy Creek

R7 #3 Cherokee Bluff at R6 #2 Sonoraville

R5 #4 Carver-Atlanta at R8 #1 No. 2 Hart County

R1 #3 Pierce County at R4 #2 Thomson

R3 #4 Southeast Bulloch at R2 #1 No. 8 Peach County

R8 #3 Oconee County at R5 #2 No. 7 Salem

R6 #4 North Murray at R7 #1 No. 9 Dawson County

R2 #3 Upson-Lee at R3 #2 No. 3 Windsor Forest

R4 #4 Harlem at R1 #1 Appling County

R3 #3 Groves at R2 #2 Americus-Sumter

R1 #4 Tattnall County at R4 #1 No. 5 Cross Creek

R5 #3 GAC at R8 #2 Monroe Area

R7 #4 North Hall at R6 #1 No. 6 LaFayette

Girls

Bottom-left quadrant: Upson-Lee enters the tournament after a 20-0 run through the regular season and is in the hunt for the program’s second state championship. It’s safe to say the Knights are the team to beat between now and March 12.

The top-ranked Knights were scheduled to play the No. 4 seed from Region 3, but following the Beach/Savannah fight, Upson will enjoy a bye in the first round. No. 9 Stephens County is also in the bottom-left and will host Redan in the first round. If Stephens beats Redan, it likely will meet No. 8 Coahulla Creek in the second round. The winner of that game likely will face Upson-Lee in the quarterfinals.

Top-left quadrant: No. 6 Johnson-Savannah and No. 10 Greater Atlanta Christian are the No. 1 seeds. Johnson will face Pike County in the first round and then either Burke or Tattnall. GAC will host Oconee County and then face either Ringgold or Gilmer in the second round.

Top-right quadrant: No. 5 Westminster and No. 2 Lumpkin County will need to win one game for a meeting between two top-5 teams. Neither program advanced past the first round last season. Westminster hosts Franklin County and Lumpkin hosts Rockmart in the first round.

Bottom-right quadrant: Three ranked programs lead the pack – No. 7 Americus-Sumter, No. 3 Cross Creek and No. 4 Sonoraville. Americus-Sumter and Cross Creek will meet in the second round, if both programs survive their first-round games, and Sonoraville will have to beat North Hall and then Sandy Creek/East Jackson in the second round for a possible shot at Sonoraville or Cross Creek.

Girls first-round schedule

R4 #3 Burke County at R1 #2 Tattnall County

R2 #4 Pike County at R3 #1 No. 6 Johnson-Savannah

R6 #3 Ringgold at R7 #2 Gilmer County

R8 #4 Oconee County at R5 #1 No. 10 GAC

R7 #3 White County at R6 #2 No. 8 Coahulla Creek

R5 #4 Redan at R8 #1 No. 9 Stephens County

R1 #3 Brantley County at R4 #2 Morgan County

R3 #4 BYE at R2 #1 No. 1 Upson-Lee

R8 #3 Franklin County at R5 #2 No. 5 Westminster

R6 #4 Rockmart at R7 #1 No. 2 Lumpkin County

R2 #3 Jackson at R3 #2 Liberty County

R4 #4 Hephzibah at R1 #1 Pierce County

R3 #3 Southeast Bulloch at R2 #2 No. 7 Americus-Sumter

R1 #4 Appling County at R4 #1 No. 3 Cross Creek

R5 #3 Sandy Creek at R8 #2 East Jackson

R7 #4 North Hall at R6 #1 No. 4 Sonoraville

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