Semifinals recap: Hart County tradition awakens; most No. 1 teams get through
Harry Marsh, a 600-game winner, knows a little about Hart County basketball history.
Marsh was the coach of the boys team that won Class AAA in 1986. He was still there when Hart County’s girls won a record six straight state titles from 1989 to 1994.
And he was reminded Sunday morning of Hart County’s sweep of the boys and girls state titles in 1963. A lady at Marsh’s church told him she witnessed it and wished it would happen again.
It might just.
Hart County’s boys and girls teams both won their semifinal games on Saturday – each defeating higher-ranked opponents – and advanced to this week’s championship games in Macon. Neither has played for a championship since 1994.
‘’It’s been a while, and it’s definitely sweet to get that Hart County feeling back,’’ said Marsh, who was talked out of retirement this season and returned to Hartwell after a 23-year absence. “Seeing all that orange up in the stands last night was fantastic. It’s definitely a thrill for our school, our community and both of our teams.’’
Marsh directed his eighth-ranked boys to a 71-66 victory over third-ranked Dawson County in the AAA final four in Savannah. Hart now will play No. 1 Morgan County in an all-Region 8 final on Thursday.
Hart’s girls, ranked No. 3, defeated No. 1-ranked Beach 62-58, coming from eight points down in the fourth quarter in Beach’s Savannah hometown. Hart will play another Savannah team, defending champion Johnson, for the title.
Hart County was among the big winners in Saturday’s semifinals, which qualified 32 teams for the 16 state finals to be played Wednesday through Saturday in Macon.
Most went according to ranking. In fact, Hart’s boys are the only team not ranked in the top six to make the finals, and 12 of the 16 No. 1-ranked teams entering the tournament are still playing.
In fact, Five of the 16 finals will pit No. 1 vs. No. 2. That’s the case in Class AAAAAAA, where McEachern’s No. 1-ranked boys improved to 31-0 with a 66-62 victory over Norcross and will face No. 2 Meadowcreek, the defending champion, in the final. McEachern (31-0) avenged a 20-point loss from the 2018 quarterfinals.
In the girls final, No. 1 Westlake, the defending champ, will play No. 2 Collins Hill.
In AAAAAA, Tri-Cities’ boys – which have never won a state title – will play No. 6 Tucker. Lovejoy’s girls, the defending champions, will play No. 4 Lanier, which had never made even the quarterfinals until this season.
Buford’s boys and girls, both ranked No. 1, are in the AAAAA final. The boys will play No. 5 Fayette County, a team seeking its first title. The girls will play unbeaten Villa Rica, which last won in 1969.
Carver-Columbus got its boys and girls to the finals in AAAA. The fifth-ranked boys, last a champion in 1971, will play No. 6 Americus-Sumter, which won its only title as Americus High in 1961. Carver’s girls, ranked No. 1 but without a state title in its history, will face fourth-ranked Spalding, the defending champion.
The AA boys final has two teams – third-ranked Vidalia and fourth-ranked Therrell – that have never won state titles. In the girls final, sixth-ranked Douglass will play fifth-ranked Early County. Douglass beat No. 4 Laney, the defending champion, and advanced to the final for the first time in history.
In Class A, Calhoun County’s boys beat three-time defending champion Wilkinson County 46-42 in overtime to reach the public-school final against Treutlen, which has never won a title. Calhoun’s girls also advanced and will face Marion County. Neither has won a state title.
The A private finals have No. 1 St. Francis against No. 2 Eagle’s Landing Christian (boys) and No. 1 Holy Innocents’ against No. 3 Wesleyan (girls).
Each of the finalists has between three and six days to prepare. The last time that Marsh and Hart’s boys were in the finals, the championship was played the day after the semifinals.
‘’We have more time to enjoy the sweetness of it and to prepare,’’ he said. ‘’Everybody is on a high. But we don’t want to spoil an opportunity by focusing too much on the success we’ve already had.’’