The semifinals are set for Class AAA this Saturday at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. The No. 1-ranked boys and girls teams were both eliminated in the quarterfinals, but three of the remaining boys and girls teams are ranked in the top five. It should be a fun day in Milledgeville.
Be aware that the Class AAA order of play is different than most sites. The boys will play the first and third games and the girls will play the second and fourth games. The boys traditionally play the second and fourth game.
Here’s a look at the semifinals.
Boys: Unranked Callaway vs. No. 5 Buford, 3 p.m.: Buford (26-5) has won 20 straight games since its loss to Wings Academy of The Bronx. The Wolves are led by D’Marcus Simonds and Rakim Lubin; Simonds had 30 points and 10 rebounds and Lubin scored 31 points in the quarterfinal win over No. 2-ranked Cartersville. Buford will be making its second straight trip to the Final Four and has shown an ability to succeed whether the game is fast-paced or a defensive battle. Callaway (22-6) has won seven straight and averaged 82.8 points during that stretch. The Cavaliers have sharpshooters in Dre Martin, who had 39 in the second round against Thomson, and Braylon Sanders.
Girls: No. 9 Pike County vs. No. 3 Buford, 4:45 p.m.: Buford (29-2) has two important elements that make it particularly dangerous. Center Bree Horrocks is a legit 6-foot-5 post with very long arms and a soft touch around the basket and guard Camille Anderson is an excellent guard capable of running the offense or shooting a mean 3-pointer. Plus, Buford’s defense is a non-stop aggressive brand of pressing and pressure that can grind a team down. Pike County (24-7) got hot at the right time. The Pirates have won 10 straight games and beaten two other ranked teams to reach the semifinals. This is a balanced team that has learned to play well under pressure. The three pillars are Kristen Beckham, a 6-9 junior who averages 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds, Lauren Duncan, a 5-9 senior who averages 11 points and five rebounds, and Shaineequah Fluellyn, a 5-5 senior who averages 12.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Boys: No. 2 Johnson vs. No. 4 Morgan County, 6:30 p.m.: Johnson (25-4) won it all last year with a great defense. Guess what? The Atom Smashers are just as nasty as before on the defensive side, plus they may be better on offense. Johnson carries a 15-game winning streak into the semifinals. Senior Adrian Bonds, a 6-1 guard, used his long-range magic to score 28 in the win over No. 1 Washington County; he averages 17 points and 4.3 rebounds. Hakeem Coney, a 6-1 senior, averages 10.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 4.0 steals and is a real game-changer. Antwan Maxwell, a 6-8 junior, averages 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds. Morgan County (23-5) has an excellent inside-outside combination of guard Tookie Brown (25.6 points) and forwards C.J. Thurman (12.1 points, 10.4 rebounds) and J Ingram (16.1 points, 7.1 rebounds). Brown is good at running the offense, but most dangerous as a shooter; he’s deadly from 3-point range.
Girls: No. 4 Beach vs. No. 2 St. Pius, 8:15 p.m.: Beach (29-1) has won 13 straight games and answered a lot of questions by beating previously unbeaten Washington County in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs spread it around and play a solid brand of defense. Top individuals are Jada Young, a 5-10 senior who averages 12.1 points and 8.3 rebounds, and Jacqueline Anderson, a 5-6 junior who averages 15.2 points and 5.2 assists. Ilyn Spann averages 8.3 points, and Erica Hicks averages 8.9 points. St. Pius (28-3), the defending state champion, is coming off an impressive quarterfinal win at Morgan County. The Golden Lions have perhaps the best pair of guards in the state: Asia Durr and Jasmine Carter. Durr averages 24.1 points and 7.1 rebounds and Carter, a Georgia signee, averages 13.5 points and 5.1 rebounds. The St. Pius roster is loaded with role players like Hannah Jones, an aggressive rebounder who isn’t afraid to mix it up with the big girls.
Cedar Grove cries foul over quarterfinal result
Had a couple of phone calls from Cedar Grove fans who were complaining about the number of fouls called in their 78-71 loss to Morgan County. Morgan County shot 39 free throws and guard Tookie Brown shot 25. Cedar Grove had three starters foul out. When asked about the game, veteran Cedar Grove coach James Martin would only say, “Casper was in the house,” code for ghost calls. “I’ll just say that our kids fought through a lot of adversity.”