Twelve high school state basketball championship games are set for later this week, and two more matchups will be determined Monday at Kennesaw State, where the Class A private-school semifinals will tip off at 3 p.m.
The girls semifinals have second-ranked St. Francis (25-2) against third-ranked Southwest Atlanta Christian (24-5) in a rematch of the 2013 state final, won by St. Francis. No. 1 Holy Innocents’ (28-0) plays No. 9 Darlington (19-8) in the other semifinal.
In the boys semifinals, No. 1 St. Francis (22-7) plays fifth-ranked Athens Christian (22-4), and No. 3 Whitefield Academy (22-6) plays Calvary Day (20-6). St. Francis could become the 16th school in state history to sweep boys and girls basketball titles in one season.
The other semifinals, played Saturday, bore few major surprises, but noteworthy victories were had by boys teams from Warner Robins, Jonesboro and Calhoun.
Warner Robins, which had not won a state-playoff game since 2007 until this year, beat fourth-ranked Stephenson 45-43 in AAAAA and reached the state finals for the first time since 2000. No Houston County school has won a boys state title since Perry in 1966.
“People think (South Georgia) is just known for football,” said Warner Robins junior forward Stephone Raybone, who also plays football. “They think Atlanta has all the basketball players. We showed tonight that the south can play basketball, too.’’
Warner Robins now must face top-ranked Miller Grove, winner of five consecutive state titles. No team south of Macon has won a boys state title in the higher two classes since Dougherty of Albany in 2001. Tift County, a AAAAAA finalist against Wheeler, also has a shot to end that drought.
In AAAA, Jonesboro reached the finals for the first time since 2003 with a 78-75 overtime victory over second-ranked Alexander.
It was perhaps the best semifinal statewide as Jonesboro survived a 46-point game from Alexander’s Hassani Gravett. Jonesboro had weapons of its own in James Walker (28 points and 12 rebounds) and Austin Donaldson (20 points, seven rebounds).
Jonesboro, seeking its first state title in basketball (boys or girls), will face No. 1 Columbia in the finals.
Calhoun’s 54-41 victory over Vidalia, which entered 30-0, ruined what would’ve been a final between the only unbeaten boys teams in the state. Top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian (31-0) instead will face a Calhoun team making its first finals appearance since 2001. Calhoun (26-2) has qualified for state tournaments as far back as the 1950s, but has never won a boys or girls state championship.
Another big semifinals winner was Buford. The boys and girls teams won their semifinals. The boys beat Callaway 92-76 and reached the state finals for the fifth time in history. They’ve never won. The girls, a three-time state champ, beat Pike County 63-46 and will played second-ranked St. Pius for the title.
The girls brackets have been more predictable. The No. 1 and No. 2 teams are playing in AAAAAA (McEachern-Archer), AAAAA (Southwest DeKalb-Tucker), AAAA (Redan-Columbus) and AA (Kendrick-Wesleyan).
The finals are Thursday through Saturday at the Macon Coliseum.
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