Predictions: Pebblebrook boys to win first title; McEachern girls to win 4th in row

Below are my round-by-round predictions of the Class AAAAAAA boys and girls state basketball tournaments.

Pebblebrook, despite its seven losses, will win the boys title. The Falcons are 6-2 vs. Top 10 teams. Those include Wheeler (3-0), Westlake (1-2), Norcross (1-0) and Berkmar (1-0).

Pebblebrook defeated Wheeler last week without Collin Sexton, the best player in this classification if not the state. Sexton, the McDonald’s All-American, returned in the Region 2 final and hit a 3-pointer that sent the Westlake game into overtime, where Pebblebrook avenged two losses and won the championship in the best Georgia basketball game of the season.

Pebblebrook’s other five losses are against out-of-state teams. That’s why Pebblebrook is ranked No. 2 ahead of Newton – despite Newton’s 26-1 record and No. 18 national ranking in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25.

Newton is 0-0 vs. Top 10 teams in AAAAAAA and 0-1 vs. teams outside the Top 10 (Shiloh).

Newton can beat anybody, and its national ranking is no fluke. Ask lower-class powers Southwest Atlanta Christian (91-60) and Liberty County (104-71), who were pounded by Newton. And this is a stronger Newton team that lost to Westlake 64-59 in the semifinals last year.

But Pebblebrook’s strength of schedule and experience in the state tournament (two straight runner-up finishes) will be huge assets over five rounds.

The tournament’s big game will be next week – assuming that Newton and Westlake get through to the second round. That would be No. 4 Westlake at No. 3 Newton.

We’re picking Newton to win with home-court advantage, knocking out the defending-champion Lions and advancing to the finals. Could go either way.

Other key games to watch, if it unfolds as predicted, are Norcross vs. Pebblebrook and Wheeler vs. No. 1-ranked and undefeated McEachern in the quarters.

[Editorial] It’s a shame that those quarterfinals, especially those matching region champions, are not played on a neutral floor. Neither Pebblebrook nor Norcross deserves the advantage, or disadvantage, of somebody’s home gym when they are region champions. [/Editorial].

Only six teams – Pebblebrook, Newton, Westlake, Norcross, McEachern, Wheeler – are capable of winning the title, IMO. But watch for Collins Hill, a top-10 team with a great path to the semifinals. Collins Hills’ boys have never made a state final four.

The girls’ draw is much more balanced, meaning fewer early showdowns and the best teams making the quarterfinals and semifinals.

No. 1 Norcross (25-2 and ranked No. 10 nationally by MaxPreps) and McEachern (21-6 and three-time defending champions) are the clear teams to beat and should meet in the final.

Expect McEachern to come out on top, winning its fourth straight state championship, which would be a first in the highest class since Lowndes (1977-80).

Norcross beat McEachern 57-53 on Nov. 19, but that was Norcross’s third game and McEachern’s first. McEachern has played a tougher schedule overall (although both have played tough national schedules). McEachern has not lost to a Georgia team since (nor has Norcross).

Collins Hill has similar talent to McEachern and Norcross but is younger and slumping, having lost games the past two weeks to Mill Creek and Duluth.

Archer and Lambert also are contenders.

BOYS

FIRST ROUND
R6/#2 Collins Hill d. R8/#3 Grayson
R4/#1 Etowah d. R2/#4 Campbell
R3/#2 Hillgrove d. R1/#3 Lowndes
R7/#4 Brookwood d. R5/#1 Milton
R8/#2 Shiloh d. R6/#3 Duluth
R2/#1 Pebblebrook d. R4/#4 Lassiter
R1/#2 Colquitt County d. R3/#3 Kennesaw Mountain
R7/#1 Norcross d. R5/#4 West Forsyth
R2/#2 Westlake d. R4/#3 Roswell
R8/#1 Newton d. R6/#4 Peachtree Ridge
R7/#2 Berkmar d. R5/#3 South Forsyth
R1/#1 Tift County d. R3/#4 Marietta
R2/#3 Wheeler d. R4/#2 Cherokee
R6/#1 Mountain View d. R8/#4 South Gwinnett
R5/#2 Lambert d. R7/#3 Meadowcreek
R3/#1 McEachern d. wc-Mill Creek
SECOND ROUND
Collins Hill d. Etowah
Hillgrove d. Brookwood
Pebblebrook d. Shiloh
Norcross d. Colquitt County
Newton d. Westlake
Tift County d. Berkmar
Wheeler d. Mountain View
McEachern d. Lambert
QUARTERFINALS
Collins Hill d. Hillgrove
Pebblebrook d. Norcross
Newton d. Tift County
McEachern d. Wheeler
SEMIFINALS
Pebblebrook d. Collins Hill
Newton d. McEachern
FINAL
Pebblebrook d. Newton

GIRLS

FIRST ROUND
R6/#2 Collins Hill d. R8/#3 Grayson
R4/#1 Cherokee d. R2/#4 Campbell
R3/#2 Hillgrove d. R1/#3 Tift County
R5/#1 Lambert d. R7/#4 Central Gwinnett
R8/#2 Newton d. R6/#3 Duluth
R2/#1 Westlake d. R4/#4 Roswell
R1/#2 Lowndes d. R3/#3 Marietta
R7/#1 Norcross d. R5/#4 West Forsyth
R2/#2 Pebblebrook d. R4/#3 Woodstock
R8/#1 Archer d. R6/#4 Mountain View
R7/#2 Brookwood d. R5/#3 South Forsyth
R1/#1 Colquitt County d. R3/#4 North Cobb
R2/#3 Wheeler d. R4/#2 Etowah
R6/#1 Mill Creek d. R8/#4 Rockdale County
R5/#2 North Forsyth d. R7/#3 Parkview
R3/#1 McEachern d. wc-South Gwinnett
SECOND ROUND
Collins Hill d. Cherokee
Lambert d. Hillgrove
Westlake d. Newton
Norcross d. Lowndes
Archer d. Pebblebrook
Brookwood d. Colquitt County
Mill Creek d. Wheeler
McEachern d. North Forsyth
THIRD ROUND
Collins Hill d. Lambert
Norcross d. Westlake
Archer d. Brookwood
McEachern d. Mill Creek
SEMIFINALS
Norcross d. Collins Hill
McEachern d. Archer
FINAL
McEachern d. Norcross

 


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