Class 7A: 10 observations on basketball first round

High school basketball spotlight (stock)

Combined ShapeCaption
High school basketball spotlight (stock)

The state basketball tournament begins today with 16 first-round games apiece in the Class 7A girls and boys draws.

Here are five observations from each of those brackets.

GIRLS

– Only two of the top four teams can make the semifinals. That’s because the draw has conspired to match No. 1 Brookwood and No. 4 Norcross in the second quarter of the draw and No. 2 North Forsyth and No. 3 Grayson in the third quarter.

– While the Brookwood-Norcross game couldn’t happen until the quarterfinals, Grayson and North Forsyth are seeded to meet in the second round. Grayson is a No. 2 seed for losing to No. 1-ranked Brookwood 55-52 in the Region 4 tournament last week. Brookwood has beaten Grayson two out of three times this season, and they could meet a fourth.

– Grayson’s path is complicated further by a first-round game against McEachern, the Region 2 regular-season champion. McEachern is 11-1 in first-round games since 2010 and reached the semifinals last season.

– Archer, the Region 7 runner-up to Norcross, got the best draw, with no ranked teams until the semifinals. Archer is ranked No. 7 and opens with Etowah. The region champions in that draw – Collins Hill and Lowndes – are unranked. Those teams won their region tournaments, but neither finished first in the regular season.

– No. 5 Cherokee also has a favorable draw to get to its third semifinal in four seasons. The other ranked team in Cherokee’s quarter is No. 9 West Forsyth. The only opponent Cherokee could face away from home before the semifinals would be Campbell, the unranked Region 2 champion.

BOYS

– The only first-round game between ranked teams has No. 4 Newton at home against No. 9 McEachern. Newton, ranked No. 1 for much of the season with its collection of three top-125 national recruits, lost its region final to Grayson but didn’t necessarily get a tougher draw overall as a result. Newton and McEachern are the only ranked teams in their quarter. The region champions in that quarter – Walton and West Forsyth – are unranked.

– West Forsyth won its first region title in history last week. The school opened in 2007. The Wolverines can win their first state tournament game with a home victory over Mill Creek. They then could get the Newton-McEachern winner.

– The top quarter of the draw is the toughest in that No. 1 Pebblebrook and No. 3 Milton, the defending champion, would meet in the quarterfinals. The other top-seeded pairs are No. 2 Berkmar-No. 6 Grayson, West Forsyth-Walton and No. 5 North Gwinnett and unranked Lowndes.

– Lowndes won its first region title since 2005 last week and swept the boys and girls titles for the first time in history. Lowndes can win its first state playoff game since 2015 with a home victory over North Paulding. Norcross, ranked No. 7, looms in the second round.

– Keep an eye on East Coweta. The Indians are ranked No. 8 and played well in the Region 2 tournament, beating No. 9 McEachern and losing to No. 1 Pebblebrook 68-62. East Coweta is favored against South Gwinnett in the first round, then probably would need to beat No. 5 North Gwinnett to make the quarters for the first time since 1971.