Class 6A blog: Preview of boys, girls championship games



Two No. 1-ranked teams, one defending champion and one unranked team will play for the Class 6A boys and girls basketball championships this weekend at the Macon Coliseum.

Top-ranked River Ridge will meet defending champion Lovejoy at 5:30 p.m. in the girls championship game. No. 1 Alexander will take on unranked Lee County at 7:30 in the boys final.

Alexander and Lee County had to overcome fourth-quarter deficits to earn their spots in the finals, with both taking the lead for good in the final minute.

Alexander (26-5) trailed sixth-ranked Etowah 49-42 with four minutes left before outscoring the Eagles 14-4 down the stretch for the 56-53 victory. Braden Lue, the Region 5 player of the year, converted a three-point play with 35.4 seconds remaining for a 54-53 lead, and Marvin McGhee’s dunk with 2.8 seconds left completed the scoring. Etowah missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. Lue led all scorers with 22 points.

Lee County (28-3) trailed No. 5 Lanier 48-45 with less than 50 seconds to play. A layup by Ousmane Kromah got the Trojans within 48-47, and DJ Taylor made two free throws with 4.5 seconds left for the 49-48 victory. Lanier, which eliminated defending champion Grovetown in the quarterfinals, missed its final shot at the buzzer. Josiah Parker led the Trojans with 16 points.

Lee County won the Region 1 championship this season but finished outside the AJC rankings released before the start of the state tournament. The Trojans will be playing in the championship game for the first time since winning the Class 3A title in 1985. Alexander is making its first trip to the state finals.

The River Ridge and Lovejoy girls will be playing a rematch of their 2022 quarterfinal game that essentially decided the state title. River Ridge was No. 1 at the time and Lovejoy was No. 2. Lovejoy won 71-59 and went on to cruise past Rockdale County 71-56 and Sequoyah 54-38 in the next two rounds to win its second title in five seasons. River Ridge is seeking its first state championship.

“Cedric [King] has got a great team.,” River Ridge coach Jason Taylor said of the Lovejoy coach. “Lovejoy put us out last year, so we want a little bit of revenge. We came in early today [for the semifinals] and Lovejoy was playing and the girls wanted to know, ‘What’s the score? Is Lovejoy winning? Is it Lovejoy, do we get them?’ Well, that’s what you wanted, and now you’ve got ‘em. They’ve been looking forward to this one.”

Both teams rolled to victories in the semifinals Saturday, with each taking 20-point leads in the second half and holding on for comfortable double-digit wins.

Lovejoy (26-5) led Brunswick 40-29 at halftime and 61-41 late in the third quarter before settling for a 73-62 victory. Bryanna Preston scored 31 points and Austin Peay signee La’Nya Foster had 25. Preston was the region player of the year in 2022, and Foster earned the award this season.

Lovejoy, ranked No. 3, was the only girls team in any classification not seeded No. 1 or No. 2 to reach the semifinals. The Wildcats finished the regular season tied for first place in Region 3 but lost to Rockdale County in the region tournament semifinals and settled for third place. Rockdale County lost to Hughes in the quarterfinals.

River Ridge led sixth-ranked Hughes 30-12 at halftime and 51-31 with about five minutes remaining before closing out a 60-46 victory. Sophia Pearl made four 3-pointers and led the Knights with 20 points. Kayla Cleaveland had 11 points, and Penn-committed Mataya Gayle scored 10. Gayle was the Region 6 player of the year.

The Knights are 26-5 this season but undefeated against Georgia opponents. River Ridge is making its first appearance in the state finals.