Class A Public Blog: Challenges remain for top-ranked boys, girls teams

March 12, 2021 Macon - Cross Creek's Richard Visitacion (4) gets a hug from Cross Creek's head coach Lawrence M Kelly (left) after they defeated Sandy Creek during the 2021 GHSA State Basketball Class AAA Boys Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Friday, March 12, 2021 Cross Creek won 57-49 over Sandy Creek. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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March 12, 2021 Macon - Cross Creek's Richard Visitacion (4) gets a hug from Cross Creek's head coach Lawrence M Kelly (left) after they defeated Sandy Creek during the 2021 GHSA State Basketball Class AAA Boys Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Friday, March 12, 2021 Cross Creek won 57-49 over Sandy Creek. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The top-ranked Drew Charter boys and Lake Oconee Academy girls have reached the Class A Public semifinals in Valdosta Saturday, where tougher challenges await.

Four No. 1 seeds remain on the boys side of the bracket, and there’s No. 1 seed vs. No. 2 seed on both sides of the bracket.

The Manchester boys will play Warren County at 4 p.m., and the Drew Charter boys will face Social Circle at 8.

The No. 2-seeded Commerce girls will face top-seeded Hancock Central at 2 p.m., and No. 2- seeded Taylor County will play No. 1-seeded Lake Oconee at 6.

Drew Charter’s boys have been ranked atop the class all season as it enters its first-ever semifinal game, where unbeaten Social Circle awaits. Social Circle is 30-0 and in its first-ever semifinal game for a school that began playing basketball in 1937.

Manchester is the only program to have a state championship victory (2007), and the Blue Devils are primed. Four players are scoring in double-figures, including senior Tra’vion Jackson with 15 points, five rebounds and two steals per game. Junior Zy’Juan Gray is scoring 13 points with 10 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Senior Camron Long adds 12.2 points with 10.3 rebounds per game, and junior Eli’juan Wright averages 12 points with 6.3 rebounds and two steals.

Warren County senior guard Lorenzo Johnson averages 23 points with six rebounds and two steals per game. Kev’Vonte Brinkley (11 points), Ra’Quan Myers (11 points) and Justyn Burnett (8 points) are other threats.

Drew Charter has been ranked No. 1 all season and enters its first-ever semifinal game.

For the girls, Commerce (14-14) might be the storyline. The program entered the tournament unranked and 11-14 before beating Armuchee (49-34), Clinch County (47-33) and Pelham (37-34) in a come-from-behind upset in the quarterfinals.

Its opponent, Hancock Central (17-3), is the other unranked program in the semis. Hancock defeated Chattahoochee County (59-33), Bryan County (56-48 OT) and Montgomery County (58-56) to get to the final four.

Taylor County, with arguably the richest history in girls basketball, reached the semis after beating Wilkinson County (63-53), Screven County (57-53) and Dublin (54-42). The Vikings won 5-consecutive state titles – 11 overall and had a 132-game winning streak from 1968-1972 which ties as fifth all-time girls basketball winning streak in the nation. The Vikings won the Class A Public title in 2015 for its most-recent title.

The Vikings are led by junior Jaliyah Zackery, who is averaging 20 points per game. The Vikings will meet top-ranked Lake Oconee Academy after it defeated Gordon Lee (66-37), Charlton County (61-40) and Seminole County (63-60).

At Valdosta State

Saturday games

2 p.m. – Class A Public girls: Commerce vs. Hancock Central

4 p.m. – Class A Public boys: Manchester vs. Warren County

6 p.m. – Class A Public girls: Taylor County vs. Lake Oconee Academy

8 p.m. – Class A Public boys: Drew Charter vs. Social Circle