Basketball state tournament: 10 most interesting developments from round 2
Round two of the state basketball tournament is in the books, and the quarterfinals are set for Tuesday and Wednesday. There are 64 boys teams and 64 girls teams still vying for 16 state titles.
Fifteen of the 16 teams that are ranked No. 1 have made it through, but last week’s second round did not go quietly as three defending boys champions were eliminated.
Here are the 10 most intriguing story lines from the round of 16.
*Two-time Class AAAA champ Upson-Lee was beaten at home by sixth-ranked Americus-Sumter 59-53. Upson-Lee’s 75-game winning streak, ended in December with a loss to Discovery, was the third-longest among boys in state history. But the Knights rebounded nicely and entered the second round with a 25-1 record and the No. 1 ranking. But Upson-Lee failed to hold three 10-point leads, and Americus-Sumter outscored the Knights 21-6 in the final quarter and became the first team to win on Upson-Lee’s home floor since New Hampstead in 2016.
*Defending champs Greater Atlanta Christian (AAA) and Thomasville (AA) also lost, but their demises were not shocking, just premature. Both played No. 1-ranked teams on the road. GAC lost to Morgan County 67-54, and Thomasville was routed by undefeated Woodville-Tompkins of Savannah 86-54.
*Norcross’ boys and girls went on the road and swept Grayson by nearly identical scores in Class AAAAAAA games between top-10 teams. The ninth-ranked Norcross girls, now 19-10, won 67-53 while the fourth-ranked boys, now 19-10, won 68-53. Both of Grayson’s teams had 25 victories, region titles and No. 3 state rankings, but Norcross leveraged its pedigree. The Blue Devils have won 61 boys and girls playoff games this decade with five state titles combined.
*Roswell is one of 15 schools – but the most surprising – to advance both their boys and girls teams to the quarterfinals. Roswell’s boys hadn’t been to the quarters since 1985. The girls hadn’t been since 2011. Both entered the state tournament unranked. The boys beat Marietta 65-54 while the girls beat seventh-ranked McEachern 64-53. The latter kept McEachern’s girls out of the elite eight for the first time since 2013.
*Gainesville, the AAAAAA runner-up last year, defeated No. 7 Cambridge 96-88 in double overtime and emerged as the only team, boys or girls, to defeat two ranked teams in the first two rounds. Gainesville’s Rafael Rubel scored 42 points against Cambridge. In the first round, Gainesville beat No. 9 Langston Hughes 73-69 in a rematch of the 2018 state-title game.
*Forest Park’s girls, ranked No. 2 in AAAAAA, beat Richmond Hill 59-7. According to Becky Taylor of the Georgia Basketball Project, the seven points are the fewest ever scored in the girls tournament, which dates to 1945. The previous low came in 1975, when Lowndes beat Northside-Warner Robins 44-11.
*Riverside Military’s boys reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1932. That’s despite trailing by 12 points midway in the fourth quarter against Walker of Marietta in the Class A private-school game. Shad Dabney scored 15 of his team’s final 17 points, including a game-winning shot with two seconds left (see below), in the 64-63 victory.
*Central-Talbotton’s girls became the first and only Class A public school to win a road playoff game this year with their 61-58 upset victory over sixth-ranked Georgia Military. The home teams are 15-1. The win also put Central-Talbotton in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1986, when Central ruled Class A basketball with three straight state titles.
*Franklin County’s boys are so-called lucky-losers for getting the at-large berth into the AAA playoffs despite a fifth-place finish in region play. They’re making the most of the gift. Franklin, which entered the tournament with a 13-13 record, beat Beach on the road 62-57 after beating seventh-ranked Central-Macon on the road 45-43 in the first round.
*This week’s third round is the first in which region champions or same-seeded teams can play against each other. The GHSA determines home-court advantage in those games with one coin flip, which occurred Tuesday ahead of the round of 16. It landed tails, which meant the teams lower on the bracket would be at home. That heavily favors North Georgia, as it did last year. There are 13 of those games between North Georgia teams and central or south Georgia teams. All 13 will be played in the north. Those travelers include No. 1-ranked girls teams Carver-Columbus (to No. 7 Heritage-Ringgold in AAAA) and Fitzgerald (to No. 6 Douglass in AA) and No. 1-ranked boys team Woodville-Tompkins (to No. 5 Elbert County in AA).