Semifinals recap: 5 top-ranked teams lose; Savannah, Columbus girls earn city pride

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

Basketball courtPace Academy’s boys and Holy Innocents’ girls won showdowns between reigning state basketball champions on Saturday while girls teams from Savannah and Columbus set up historic state-final matchups for their hometowns.

Five No. 1-ranked teams, including McEachern’s previously undefeated boys, were among the casualties of the semifinals, held in a single day at eight neutral sites to trim the high school tournament to 32 teams seeking 16 titles.

In the Class AAA boys semifinals at Savannah’s Armstrong State, No. 2-ranked Pace defeated No. 4 Liberty County 71-62 as 6-foot-10 forward Wendell Carter, a McDonald’s All-American and Duke signee, scored 32 points. Pace built an 18-point first-half lead. Pace was the AA champion last year. Liberty was the AAAA champion.

Also in Savannah, local rivals Beach and Johnson advanced to face each other for the girls’ AAA title. And at Augusta University, Carver and Columbus advanced in AAAA to meet in an all-Columbus girls AAAA final.

In the Class A private-school semifinals at the Cobb Civic Center in Marietta, No. 2 Holy Innocents’ beat No. 1 St. Francis, the two-time defending champion, 63-61. Holy Innocents’ was the AA champion in 2016.

Holy Innocents’ got 19 points from Kaila Hubbard and 18 from Khayla Pointer while St. Francis’ pair of McDonald’s All-Americans, Kasiyahna Kushkituah and Maya Dodson, were held to 13 points total.

St. Francis was the first of a handful of No. 1-ranked teams to lose. The others were McEachern’s boys (AAAAAAA) to Tift County; Northview’s girls (AAAAAA) to Harrison; Griffin’s girls (AAAAA) to Buford; and Cross Creek’s girls (AAAA) to Carver.

Here is a class-by-class look at semifinals. The finals will be March 8-11 at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.


AAAAAAA – No. 1 Norcross and No. 2 McEachern advanced easily at West Georgia. Norcross held Collins Hill to 1-of-22 shooting in the first half of a 37-30 victory. McEachern, the three-time defending champion, routed Archer 78-58. Archer led 28-19 before McEachern went on a 28-4 run to end the first half. McEachern finished with 24-4 advantage in fast-break points and outrebounded Archer 54-32, leading to 25 second-chance points. For more on those games, see Chip Saye’s coverage from West Georgia.

AAAAAA – No. 4 Harrison toppled top-ranked Northview 57-39 and advanced to the finals for the first time. Harrison’s Sydne Wiggins scored 21 points, and Northview lost to a Georgia team for the first time since November. Harrison will play unranked Mays, a 50-42 winner over No. 7 Lovejoy. Kamiyah Street scored 32 points – including an amazing personal 16-0 run that erased a 34-18 deficit. For more on those games, see S. Thomas Coleman’s coverage from Fort Valley State.

AAAAA – In Columbus, Southwest DeKalb and Buford set themselves up for a title game of the century. Southwest has made the finals eight of nine seasons, winning five. Buford has made the finals seven of nine, winning four. They’ve never met in the playoffs. Southwest beat No. 8 Flowery Branch 66-63 after overcoming a six-point deficit in the second half. Jada Walton scored 23 points. Buford crushed No. 1 Griffin 88-50. For more on those games, see Stan Awtrey’s coverage from Columbus State.

AAAA – Carver beat No. 1 Cross Creek 60-56 while No. 6 Columbus beat No. 9 Sandy Creek 62-50. Columbus’ 6-3 post Tatyana Wyatt scored 24 points and had 13 rebounds. Neither Columbus school has won a state title in girls basketball.

AAA – Johnson, seeking its first-ever title, beat defending champ Morgan County 48-39, avenging a 2016 semifinal loss, while Beach defeated Greater Atlanta Christian 56-47, out-scoring GAC 10-1 in overtime. Beach’s Judasia Hills scored 22 points and had 15 rebounds.

AA – At Georgia College in Milledgeville, No. 1 Laney beat No. 2 Model 65-49 and will play No. 5 Rabun County, a 65-37 winner over Bleckley County. Laney won the AAA title in 2015. Rabun was in its first semifinal.

A private – Holy Innocents’ faces third-ranked Wesleyan, a 77-35 winner over Lakeview Academy. Wesleyan’s Mikayla Coombs, a leading contender for state player of the year, scored 28 points. Holy Innocents’ has beaten Wesleyan two of three times this season, but Wesleyan won the last one for the Region 5 tournament title. For more on those games, see Adam Krohn’s coverage from the Cobb Civic Center in Marietta.

A public – No. 1 Pelham and No. 2 Telfair County will play for the title. Pelham last won in 1997, Telfair in 1960.


AAAAAAA – McEachern’s bid to become the first undefeated team in the highest class since 1995 Dunwoody ended to red-hot No. 7 Tift County 56-49. Micah Johnson scored 12 of Tift’s final 20 points, including a stretch of 10 in a row. No. 5 Norcross blew out unranked Grayson. Rayshaun Hammonds, a Georgia signee, finished with 20 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots despite foul trouble. For more on those games, see Chip Saye’s coverage from West Georgia.

AAAAAA – In a game between unranked teams, Brunswick beat South Cobb 67-61 as Marcus Scott made 14-of-14 free throws. Brunswick, which won its only state title in 2015, will face No. 4 Langston Hughes, a 59-57 winner over Allatoona. Hughes’ Landers Nolley finished with 34 points and was 7-of-9 on 3-pointers. His two free throws with :05 seconds left sealed the win. Trey Doomes led Allatoona with 31 points. For more on those games, see S. Thomas Coleman’s coverage from Fort Valley State.

AAAAA – No. 2 Cedar Shoals took out defending champion Miller Grove 59-38, stopping a program that had won seven state titles over eight years. Phlandrous Fleming scored 25 points. “They have a great program and they’ve done a lot of great things,” Cedar Shoals coach L’Dreco Thomas said. “We’ve seen that through the years and it made us hungrier and hungrier.’’ Cedar Shoals now faces No. 1 Buford, an 83-60 winner over No. 6 Fayette County. Buford coach Eddie Martin (formerly of Norcross and GAC) can become the second coach after David Boyd to win boys state titles at three schools. For more on those games, see Stan Awtrey’s coverage from Columbus State.

AAAA – St. Pius is in the finals for the first time in 25 years after an 87-68 victory over Sandy Creek. St. Pius led by 14 in the first quarter, was tied 52-52, then out-scored Sandy Creek 35-18 in the final period. St. Pius has never won the title. Next will be No. 1 Upson-Lee, a 74-59 winner over No. 2 Henry County. Upson-Lee is now the only undefeated boys or girls team in the state at 31-0.

AAA – Pace will face the winner between No. 3 Morgan County, the defending champion, which beat Calhoun 72-61.

AA – At Georgia College, unranked Swainsboro upset No. 5 Dublin 68-64 as Swainsboro’s Jaylan McKinney scored 32 points. Going for its first title since 1996, Swainsboro will play No. 1 South Atlanta, a 61-50 winner over Josey.

A private – Top-ranked Greenforest Christian ran through St. Francis 86-56 as 6-10 Abayomi Iyiola (18 points) and 7-footer Ikey Obiagu (10) proved too powerful. David Quimby also scored 18 for the defending champs. Greenforest will play Southwest Atlanta Christian, which got 41 points from University of Florida-bound DeAundrae Ballard and beat Lakeview Academy 77-74. For more on those games, see Adam Krohn’s coverage from the Cobb Civic Center in Marietta.

A public – Defending champion and third-ranked Wilkinson County advanced with a 60-47 win over No. 8 Macon County at Valdosta State and will play No. 1 Calhoun County, a 52-50 winner over No. 5 Clinch County.


Class AAAAAAA at West Georgia

R7 #1 Norcross (No. 1) d. R6 #2 Collins Hill (No. 4) 37-30

R3 #1 McEachern (No. 2) d. R8#1 Archer (No. 6) 78-58

Class AAAAAA at Fort Valley State

R6 #2 Harrison (No. 4) d. R7 #1 Northview (No. 1) 57-39

R5 #3 Mays d. R4 #2 Lovejoy (No. 7) 50-42

Class AAAAA at Columbus State

R5 #1 Southwest DeKalb (No. 3) d. R8 #2 Flowery Branch (No. 8) 66-63

R8 #1 Buford (No. 2) vs. R3 #1 Griffin (No. 1) 85-50

Class AAAA at Augusta University

R1 #1 Columbus (No. 6) d. R5 #1 Sandy Creek (No. 9) 62-50

R1 #1 Carver-Columbus (No. 4) d. R3 #1 Cross Creek (No. 1) 60-56

Class AAA at Armstrong State

R3 #2 Beach (No. 2) vs. R7 #1 Greater Atlanta Christian (No. 3) 56-47

R3 #1 Johnson-Savannah (No. 1) d. R8 #1 Morgan County 48-39

Class AA at Georgia College

R4 #1 Laney (No. 1) d. R7 #1 Model (No. 2) 65-49

R8 #1 Rabun County (No. 5) vs. R3 #1 Bleckley County 65-37

Class A-Public at Valdosta State

#1 Telfair County (No. 2) d. #5 Woodville-Tompkins (No. 4) 62-60

#3 Pelham (No. 1) d. #2 Wheeler County (No. 3) 81-67

Class A-Private at Cobb Civic Center

#5 Holy Innocents’ (No. 2) d. #1 St. Francis (No. 1) 63-61

#2 Wesleyan (No. 3) vs. #3 Lakeview Academy (No. 4) 77-35


Class AAAAAAA at West Georgia

R7 #1 Norcross (No. 5) d. R8 #3 Grayson 67-48

R1 #1 Tift County (No. 7) vs. R3 #1 McEachern (No. 1) 56-49

Class AAAAAA at Fort Valley State

R2 #1 Brunswick d. R6 #2 South Cobb 67-61

R5 #3 Langston Hughes (No. 4) vs. R6 #1 Allatoona (No. 9) 59-57

Class AAAAA at Columbus State

R8 #2 Cedar Shoals (No. 2) d. R5 #1 Miller Grove (No. 4) 59-38

R8 #1 Buford (No. 1) d. R3 #1 Fayette County (No. 6) 83-60

Class AAAA at Augusta University

R8 #1 St. Pius (No. 5) d. R5 #2 Sandy Creek (No. 4) 87-68

R2 #1 Upson-Lee (No. 1) d. R4 #1 Henry County (No. 2) 74-59

Class AAA at Armstrong State

R5 #1 Pace Academy (No. 2) d. R2 #1 Liberty County (No. 4) 71-62

R8 #1 Morgan County (No. 3) vs. R6 #1 Calhoun 72-61

Class AA at Georgia College

R2 #1 Swainsboro d. R3 #2 Dublin (No. 5) 68-64

R6 #1 South Atlanta (No. 1) d. R4 #3 Josey (No. 10) 61-50

Class A-Public at Valdosta State

#5 Wilkinson County (No. 3) d. #8 Macon County (No. 7) 60-47

#2 Calhoun County (No. 1) d. #3 Clinch County (No. 5) 52-50

Class A-Private at Cobb Civic Center

#1 Greenforest Christian (No. 1) d. #5 St. Francis (No. 5) 86-56

#6 SW Atlanta Christian (No. 3) d. #2 Lakeview Academy (No. 6) 77-74

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