Title game previews: Norcross-Tift (boys), Norcross-McEachern (girls)
The Class AAAAAAA basketball finals are Saturday Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.
The Norcoss-McEachern girls game is at 6 p.m., and the Norcross-Tift County boys game is at 8 p.m.
Here’s a look at each of the four state finalists in the high class.
Norcross is going for its sixth state title in 12 years, third under coach Jesse McMillan, and first since 2013. Norcross started 10-0 and held top-25 national rankings but flew off the radar somewhat after a 77-69 loss to Pebblebook in late December. Norcross avenged that loss with an 82-60 win in the quarterfinals. Norcross has beaten Jemison of Alabama, Miami Christian and Pace Academy, teams that have won state titles, and Greenforest Christian, which still might. Norcross forwards Rayshaun Hammonds (6-8) and Lance Thomas (6-9) and guard Kyle Sturdivant are all major Division I prospects.
Tift County coach Eric Holland on Norcross: ‘’Norcross’ size can cause a problem for us. Their bigs are very good inside and outside. They are well-coached, and guards are very solid.’’
#0 Rayshaun Hammonds (UGA signee, 18 ppg, 11 reb)
#1 Lance Thomas (Louisville signee, 10 ppg, 9 reb, 2.5 blk)
#3 Kyle Sturdivant (11 ppg, 3.5 reb, 2.5 ast)
#5 Jordan Goldwire (9 ppg, 3reb, 5 ast)
#12 Dalvin White (8 ppg, 2.5 reb, 2.5 ast)
The Blue Devils were a Top 10 team throughout the season but never in the top five. In retrospect, they were underrated, but they didn’t play an overly tough schedule and lost to unranked Lowndes on Jan. 20. Their other loss was early season against nationally renowned Montverde Academy. In the playoffs, they’ve been impressive to say the least – beating No. 1 McEachern in the semifinals and No. 3 Newton in the quarters, not to mention No. 8 Berkmar in the second round. Tift has three seniors left over from its 2014 championship team in Preston Horne, Micah Johnson and Fred Floyd. That remains the only south Georgia boys team to win the highest classification since 1998 Savannah.
Norcoss coach Jesse McMillan on Tift County: ‘’Tift County is the toughest, most disciplined team we will have played this season. I’ve known Coach [Eric] Holland for several years now and his No. 1 goal is to put a team on the floor that plays harder than the competition. They rebound at the elite level and put their best players in positions to score every trip down the floor. It will be our most difficult match-up of
the season, that is for sure.’’
Tift County stats:
#24 Preston Horne (Virginia Tech signee, 23.3 ppg, 7.7 reb
#2 Micah Johnson (Alabama State signee, 10.8 ppg, 3.6 reb, 4.8 ast)
#1 Fred Lloyd (9.89 ppg, 6.6 reb)
#5 Rashod Bateman (6.9 ppg, 2.7 reb)
#3 Montavious Terrell (5.7 pp, 1.4 eb, 2.1 ast)
Norcross, ranked No. 10 nationally by MaxPreps, has lost only to No. 1 Riverdale of Tennessee and No. 2 of Monacan of Virginia. Norcross defeated McEachern 57-53 on Nov. 19, although that was Norcross’s third game and McEachern’s first. Norcross coach Angie Hembree has won six state titles as a coach, three at Norcross (2010, 2011 2013) and three at Collins Hill (2001, 2002, 2005).
McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur on Norcross: ‘’I have competed against Coach Hembree for several years. She is a class act and a heck of a coach. I know she will have her ladies ready to play. I expect them to come out running and scoring, she has some really good seniors guards and her team is very discipline. We have to limit our turnovers, make shots and box them out to be able to play with them.’’
#25 Vanessa Blagmon (South Florida signee, 14.3 ppg, 4.9 reb, 3.2 ast, 2.3 st)
#11 Taylor Mason (Miami signee, 11.0 ppg, 5.1 eb, 2.6 ast, 1.7 st)
#12 Tehya Lyon (10.1 ppg, 2.6 st, 3.0 ast)
#15 Tionna Carter (5.8 ppg, 5.1 reb)
#34 Devyn Wilson (6.5 ppg, 5.3 reb)
#10 Myra Strickland (5.2 ppg)
McEachern has won three straight state titles and can become only the second program in the highest classification to win four straight, first since Lowndes (1977-80). McEachern also won in 2012, so a title would be five in six seasons. McEachern has lost two starters, Symone Oliver and Chanel Wilson, to season-ending injury, but just keeps on rolling. McEachern has won 11 straight and hasn’t lost to a Georgia team since the opener vs. Norcross.
#10 Que Morrison (UGA signee, 13.7 ppg, 6.9 reb, 5.9 ast, 3.7 st)
#5 Lyndsey Whilby (Texas Tech signee, 13.2 ppg, 3.6 reb)
#11 Chanel Wilson (12.9 ppg, 3.3 reb, 5.0 ast)
#35 Jasmine Clements (6.2 ppg, 7.8 reb)
#24 Victoria Agyin (6.6 ppg)
#30 Jewel Smalls (7.5 ppg, 3.1 reb)