The matchups for the Class AAAAAAA basketball finals are set. Tift County and Norcross will meet in the boys final (8 p.m., Saturday, Georgia Tech). Norcross will meet McEachern in the girls final (6 p.m., Saturday, Georgia Tech).
Boys: Tift County 56, McEachern 49
Micah Johnson scored 12 of Tift County’s final 20 points, including a stretch of 10 in a row, as the seventh-ranked Blue Devils held off No. 1 McEachern in the Class AAAAAAA boys basketball semifinals Saturday at West Georgia.
The victory puts the Blue Devils (28-2) in the championship game for the first time since 2014, when they won the second state title in school history. The loss spoiled McEachern’s perfect season and prevented the Indians (29-1) from making their first trip to the finals.
Tift County led 32-16 early in the third quarter but had seen the lead dwindle to 36-31 with less than two minutes to play in the period. Johnson made two free throws to make it 38-31, then scored the first eight Tift County points, on a layup and six free throws, in the fourth quarter to help the Blue Devils maintain a four-point lead. McEachern got within three points four times down the stretch, but Tift County was 6-for-10 from the line in the final 55 seconds to put the game away.
The Blue Devils were 20-for-27 from the line for the game.
“I was able to attack more,” Johnson said. “I had seen that they were giving me more floor openings. I was kind of out of control, but at the same time they were grabbing me and playing more aggressive. Once a team’s more aggressive, you’ve got to attack and get the ball inside.”
P.J. Horne scored 15 of his game-high 17 points in the first half as Tift County built a 30-16 lead. Johnson finished with 15 points and four assists.
Rashod Bateman’s 3-pointer about a minute into the game gave Tift County a lead it would never relinquish. The Blue Devils built the lead to 12-8 by the end of the quarter and outscored McEachern 18-8 in the second.
McEachern had no answer early for Horne, who was 6-for-7 from the field in the first half. His layup with 55 seconds to play in the half gave Tift County its biggest lead at 30-14.
McEachern struggled from 3-point range, going 0-for-9 in the first half. The Indians had better luck when the ball went inside to Babatunde Akingbola and Isaac Okoro, who had 14 of the Indians’ 16 points in the half.
Okoro scored 15 points before fouling out with 55 seconds to play. Akingbola had 14 points, and Devin Gordon had 10.
McEachern finished 5-for-26 from 3-point range.
Boys: Norcross 67, Grayson 48
Norcross put a little distance between itself and Grayson late it the first half while its star forward, Rayshaun Hammonds, sat on the bench with foul trouble.
When the Georgia signee returned at the start of the third quarter, the Blue Devils put the game away.
Hammonds finished with 20 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots as the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (26-5) returned to the championship game for the seventh time in 13 seasons. Norcross was the runner-up in 2005 before winning titles in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013.
Norcross led 22-19 when Hammonds went to the bench with eight points and two fouls with 5:13 to play in the second quarter. But the Blue Devils outscored Grayson 10-4 over the next four minutes and went into halftime with a 32-24 lead.
“That was all because of Robert Sims,” Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said. “He completely changed the energy of the game. When you lose your best player, it can go one of two ways. But you have a guy who maybe doesn’t get as much playing time, coming in and rebounding and blocking shots, it changes everything.”
Sims had the first basket in Norcross’ half-ending run and added two rebounds and four blocked shots in 10 minutes of play.
Hammonds made his mark when he returned, scoring the Blue Devils’ first four points of the third quarter, and his three-point play gave the Blue Devils a 48-32 lead with 2:41 to play in the quarter. Grayson never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Norcross outrebounded Grayson 39-22 and finished with 11 blocked shots. Kyle Sturdiyant had 14 points and Lance Thomas added 12 for the Blue Devils.
The smaller Rams stayed close for a while with their 3-point shooting. Joey Chavez made three and had 11 points, all in the first half, and Travis Anderson made two. Anderson led Grayson with 14 points.
Grayson, the only No. 3 seed to make it to the semifinals, finished 21-10.
Girls: McEachern 78, Archer 58
Second-ranked McEachern used a 28-4 second-quarter run to turn a nine-point deficit into a 47-32 lead, and the Indians went on to eliminate Archer from the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
The victory leaves McEachern one win away from its fourth consecutive state championship and fifth title in six years. A win against Norcross in the state final next Saturday would make the Indians the first team, boys or girls, to win four straight titles in the highest classification since Lowndes in 1980.
Senior Que Morrison, a Georgia signee who was named the Region 3 player of the year, led the way for the Indians (25-6). She finished with 24 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and five assists.
“Que is a special player,” McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur said. “She gets beat up every game and just keeps going. Georgia is getting a special player. But we’ve got her for one more week, and we’re going to need her.”
McEachern’s Lyndsey Whilby scored 10 points in the first three minutes to help the Indians build a 13-5 lead but picked up her third foul with 2:32 to play in the quarter. Once she went to the bench, Archer closed the quarter on a 14-4 run for a 19-17 lead.
Sixth-ranked Archer (25-5) increased the lead to 28-19 on Autumn Newby’s 3-pointer early in the second quarter before McEachern’s quickness and pressure took over. Morrison had a layup and three nice assists as McEachern reclaimed the lead at 30-29, and the Indians continued the run for the remainder of the half and took a 47-32 lead into halftime. Archer turned the ball over 10 times in the second quarter and was just 4-for-11 from the field.
The Indians maintained a comfortable lead of 15 to 22 points throughout the second half.
McEachern finished with 24-4 advantage in fast-break points and outrebounded Archer 54-32, leading to 25 second-chance points.
Whilby had 16 points in 17 minutes. Jasmine Clements had 11 points and 17 rebounds, and Jewell Smalls added 11 points.
Newby led Archer with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Linsey Marchese scored 13 points, and Tia Shorter and Asia McCoy had 11 each.
Girls: Norcross 37, Collins Hill 30
Vanessa Blagmon scored 13 points and Taylor Mason had 11 as top-ranked Norcross held off No. 4 Collins Hill to reach the championship game for the fifth time in eight seasons.
The Blue Devils won titles in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and finished as the runners-up two seasons ago.
“Survive and advance,” Norcross coach Angie Hembree said. “We played a great defensive team and were really outsized. I think my kids have huge heart. It was a great effort and I’m so proud of them. Now we’re going to the finals again.”
Collins Hill (25-5) took its only lead of the game at 2-0 on a layup by Kayla Dixon with 5:47 to play in the first quarter. That was the only field goal of the half for the Eagles, who were just 1-for-22 from the field in the first two quarters.
Norcross (29-2) had its own early problems offensively and was not able to pull away away. The Blue Devils were just 6-for-18 from the field and led 19-6 at halftime behind eight points from Mason.
Collins Hill’s second basket of the game was a jumper by Dixon with 7:32 to play in the third quarter. That cut the lead to 19-8 and started a 16-5 run that got the Eagles back to within two points after a 3-pointer by Katherine Fourie with 1:32 to play in the quarter.
Collins Hill eventually closed to within 27-26 on a layup by Bria Harmon midway through the fourth, but Norcross never surrendered the lead. Collins Hill’s Javyn Nicholson scored all of her team-leading nine points in the second half and finished with 18 rebounds.
The Blue Devils put the game away by going 6-for-8 from the free-throw line, including 3-for-4 by Blagmon, in the final 1:11.
Norcross got a boost off the bench from Morgan Robinson, who had three points, six rebounds and a steal in 14 minutes. Blagmon and Mason also had six rebounds each, and Devyn Wilson led the Blue Devils with seven.
Norcross was 11-for-37 from the field (29.7 percent) for the game and had 12 turnovers, although only three came in the second half. Collins Hill was 10-for-49 (20.4 percent) from the field.