After streamlining to become smaller in scale from previous years, the Peachtree Corners Invitational boys high school basketball showcase nearly shrank further before a late-added game in October made it the same four-game event it was in 2019.
While the additional game will pit two Georgia teams, St. Anne-Pacelli of Columbus against Cobb County’s Campbell, the rest of the event, which tips off Saturday at Norcross’ House of Blue, will retain the same format it has in the previous 13 seasons in which a metro Atlanta team takes on an out-of-state opponent.
Two of Gwinnett County’s best, Class AAAAAAA top-ranked Grayson (20-1) and No. 3 Norcross (20-2) will round out Saturday’s slate, with the Rams taking on Alabama powerhouse Ramsay at 6 p.m. and the Blue Devils hosting Cardinal Newman of Columbia, South Carolina, in the 7:30 p.m. nightcap.
Those games follow the St. Anne-Pacelli vs. Campbell opener at 3 p.m. and Langston Hughes vs. Winston-Salem (N.C.) Prep at 4:30 p.m. and will make for a full day of basketball filled with plenty of contrast.
“We always have a lot of in-state teams calling us each year and asking us to keep them in mind,” Norcross and event director Jesse McMillan said. “We do like the idea of it being a little smaller, and we like our lineup. The Pacelli-Campbell game was added more recently. We had three games but we … didn’t want to come into a cold gym at 4:30, and both teams were looking for another game. So it worked out well.
“We have an advantage of being able to set the matchups, but from our perspective, I like being able to expose us to a style of play we haven’t necessarily seen before (this season). That’s what Cardinal Newman brings us.”
That variety of styles of play is also why Grayson coach Geoffrey Pierce wanted his team to take part in the showcase this season.
Saturday’s game against Ramsay, will be the end of a two-week, six-game gauntlet that has seen the Rams take on three different state-ranked Region 8-AAAAAAA foes — then-No. 8 Newton, No. 6 Archer and No. 2 Shiloh — plus three out-of-state teams in separate showcases.
But while Pierce admits physical and mental fatigue is a concern, he is convinced the benefits of such stern tests outweighs those concerns as the Rams prepare for the postseason.
“It is definitely something to be concerned about,” Pierce said. “But at the same time, in the state tournament, you’re going to face a couple of tough games in a row. So this just gets you used to that, and this is one more good test. We’ve got a few nicks here and there, but I’m happy with the team’s health right now.
“The unfamiliarity of the opponent and different coaching and playing styles are important. We’ll see some offenses and defenses we may not normally see. It’s good heading into the region tournament.”