With the region basketball tournaments now complete, girls and boys basketball teams throughout Gwinnett County and all of Georgia that have qualified for the GHSA’s state tournament can take a bit of a break.
But it’s only a brief respite, with the state tournament for all classifications tipping off Friday at various campus sites.
Still, the opportunity for a team to take a step back and catch there collective breath, heal some aches and pains and reenergize after what in many cases was a bruising region tournament is a welcome one.
“This region is really, really tough, so every game we’ve had this week has been a battle,” Brookwood girls coach Carolyn Whitney said minutes after her Broncos (20-6) outlasted Norcross (17-10) 50-48 in the Region 7-AAAAAAA championship game last Friday. “It’s a long, hard-fought week. Every game that we’ve had is a battle.”
A handful of teams in Classes AAAAAAA and AAA and all teams in Class A Public and Private had to held their breaths one last time Monday with the GHSA determining final power rankings, which directly impacted seeding in the Class A tournaments, as well as at-large berths in the two other classes.
North Gwinnett’s girls (11-15) was one team that could exhale after learning they had earned Class AAAAAAA’s at-large bid based on the final power rankings, and will travel to Region 4-AAAAAAA champion Cherokee for first-round game Friday at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, Wesleyan’s girls (25-3) learned they will have the No. 6 overall seed in the Class A (Private) tournament, and a first-round bye that comes with it, despite finishing as runner-up in the Region 5-A tournament last weekend.
Wesleyan’s boys (18-7) will be the No. 11 seed in their state tournament, and will host Trinity Christian in the first round, while Hebron Christian (14-12) also earned a No. 21 seed in the Class A (Private) tournament with its power ranking, and will travel to No. 12 Darlington for the first round.
As tough as the battles — and the wait in some cases, have been — the road will only get tougher for every team in the state tournament, some in earlier rounds than others.
With the brackets set up in advance to match up certain regions with each other, it makes for some intriguing possibilities for match-ups in each succeeding round.
Even teams like Grayson’s boys (24-3), with a No. 2 state ranking in Class AAAAAAA, and fresh off the first region championship in program history, will have to battle every step of the way to a state title.
A first-round win over Forsyth Central could set up a second-round battle royal with defending state runner-up Norcross (19-8), which plays host to Mountain View for a first-round game Friday night.
And that could be only one of several heavyweight second-round battles in a year that there are no shortage of tough teams in Class AAAAAAA’s boys bracket.
“There are several teams that can win (the state title),” Rams coach Geoffrey Pierce said. “Any team in the (current) top 10 has a chance to win it, and I think there are a few teams outside the top 10 that can win it. I mean, even (No. 1 state-ranked, top-five nationally ranked and undefeated McEachern) has to play East Coweta in the first round, and (East Coweta) was ranked No. 2 just last week.
“Going into the state tournament, you know you’re going to get a quality opponent each round, and the competition is ,only going to get tougher each round. The bracket is preset, so you can’t control it. So you just have to worry about what you can control.”