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7A basketball: Norcross leads group of 6 boys teams that enter year on a roll

Region play resumes for most Georgia boys basketball teams this week, and several are coming off impressive tournaments that offered a glimpse of the leading state contenders.

Here are six teams that are especially pleased with their holiday results.

*Norcross won its bracket of the Farm Bureau Insurance Classic in Roebuck, S.C. The Blue Devils beat Gaston Day, the No. 7 team overall in North Carolina, according to MaxPreps, 87-80 in the final. Brandon Boston, rated the No. 1 sophomore recruit in Georgia, was named the tournament MVP (see highlights below). JoJo Toppin, who has signed with Georgia, scored 25 points in the final on 12-of-14 shooting. Norcross also beat Southside of Greenville (the No. 10 team overall in South Carolina) 63-54 in the semifinals and stands 12-2 entering Region 7 play on Wednesday against Brookwood.

*Peachtree Ridge (12-2) beat South Carolina’s No. 1 team – host Dorman – 62-54 in the semifinals of its bracket at the FBI Classic. The Lions lost to Trinity of Louisville (Kentucky’s No. 1 overall team) 72-51 for the championship. Devin Vassell, a 6-5 guard who is signed with Florida State, is the Lions’ most high-profile recruit. Peachtree Ridge appears to be the team to beat in Region 6.

*Newton had the misfortune of playing Trinity in the semifinals and lost a tight one, 70-65, then defeated Dorman 75-65 for third place. So make that two Georgia teams that defeated South Carolina’s best last week. Newton features recent Georgia-committed point guard Ashton Hagans. Newton (10-3) and Grayson are the top teams in Region 8.

*Third-ranked Pebblebrook won its division of the Tournament of Champions at Wheeler last week with victories over Lower Richland of South Carolina, Grayson and Blanche Ely of Florida. Pebblebrook beat Ely 76-73 in the championship game despite trailing by 16 points in the first half and 47-38 at halftime. Mervin James scored 26 points and had 11 rebounds. The 71-52 win over Grayson was just as significant as Grayson was a final-four team last season and has a win over Newton, which is the last team to beat Pebblebrook. Pebblebrook has won eight straight games since that Newton loss and must be considered a leading contender again.

*Meadowcreek (12-3) went 3-1 in the Tournament of Champions, and its loss was the best indicator that the Mustangs are a top-10 Georgia team now. They were beaten 58-51 in overtime to Paul VI, which went on to win its bracket. Paul VI is No. 4 overall in Maryland, according to MaxPreps, and defeated one of Florida’s top teams, Oak Ridge of Orlando, 76-52 for the title. Oak Ridge had beaten host Wheeler 56-52. Meadowcreek has won just two state-playoff games in the past 10 seasons, but this might be the program’s best team yet. Jamir Chaplin, a 6-4 transfer from Stephenson, was Meadowcreek’s leading scorer in all four TOC games.

*Top-ranked McEachern didn’t play in a bracket at the Tournament of Champions but won showcase games against Westside of Macon 65-62 and Miami Christian 53-49. McEachern is 11-1, its only loss to out-of-state University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. McEachern’s is led by Isaac Okoro, the state’s No. 1-rated junior recruit. McEachern enters the new year as Class AAAAAAA’s boys team to beat, though the Indians have never won a state title.


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