The Class AAAAAA state championship bracket is a mystery. That's the bottom line. We try to crack the code as we preview the tournament in our March to Macon series.
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Wide open. That’s the belief across the state in the AAAAAA state bracket. There are so many teams who could run the table and win this entire tournament this season. But who? Well, that’s the biggest question mark.
If there is a theme for the AAAAAA bracket it is this - fun. This should be a roller coaster bracket this month. There are several first-round games of note. There are several contenders. There are several Cinderellas.
There are only two teams with winning streaks at seven. There isn't a team with a hotter streak than that. That means competitive balance. Furthermore, only three No. 1 seeds were the No. 1 seeds going into the region tournament week.
How in the world will all of this play out?
Your guess is as good as any. Welcome to the wild side of the postseason as we dive deeper into the AAAAAA bracket.
DEEP DIVE INTO THE NO. 1 SEEDS
Houston County(16-9) | Warner Robins, GA
Notable wins: Mary Persons, Veterans, Warner Robins, Lee County, Coffee
Notable players: SR Austin Sloan, SR Xavier Duncan, JR Charles Brown, JR TJ Morgan, SOPH HB Morgan
Notes: An overtime win over Lee County and a four-point win over Coffee puts Houston County in the tournament as a No. 1 seed. The Bears have a nice balance on offense and like to keep the game in the halfcourt.
Brunswick (16-10) | Brunswick, GA
Notable wins: Camden County, Tift County, New Hampstead, Beach, Richmond Hill, Tift County
Notable players: SR Torrey Dickens, SR Sheydan Baggs, FR Joyful Hawkins
Notes: The Pirates marched their way into a home court advantage by winning out in the region. They are really good at home and that could play a factor in this wild AAAAAA bracket. You’ll hear a lot about Joyful Hawkins, no doubt, but the team’s guard play is fast and will go hard end to end.
Greenbrier (16-12) | Evans, GA
Notable wins: Evans, Heritage, Lakeside
Notable players: SR Richard Crawford, SR Chandler Berry
Notes: With eight seniors on the roster, Greenbrier worked hard to earn a first-ever region title this season. The team has won six games in a row going into the state tournament. The Wolfpack is 7-3 over their last 10 games.
Tucker (24-4) | Tucker, GA
Notable wins: Fayette County, Mt. Zion Jonesboro, Mundy's Mill
Notable players: SR Nick Watson, SR Nathaniel Ogbu, JR Jermontae Hill
Notes: James Hartry is no stranger to the postseason life. This group of Tigers have quietly put together a terrific season. HIll, a 6-foot-6 wing, has star potential while Ogbu, a Dartmouth bound forward, make for a big tandem. Defensively, Tucker is stout.
Tri-Cities (21-6) | East Point, GA
Notable wins: South Paulding, North Atlanta, Alexander, Aquinas, Douglas County, Langston Hughes
Notable players: SR Titus Hunter, SR Damarcus Johnson, SR Alex Bean, SOPH Peyton Daniels
Notes: Coach Omari Forts had his Bulldogs play a competitive schedule against a wide variety of teams to prepare for the place his team is at now. They’ve seen several types of teams this season and should be battle-ready for the bracket. The backcourt of Hunter, Johnson and Daniels can lay down the law. All three can burn you in a variety of ways.
South Cobb (19-6) | Mableton, GA
Notable wins: Sequoyah, Creekview, Sprayberry, Pebblebrook
Notable players: SR Jaiden Diamond, FR Zocko Littleton Jr
Notes: South Cobb has a formidable duo as Jaiden Diamond provides senior leadership to a team that has had a few impressive wins. For a freshman, Zocko Littleton Jr. has been as impressive as anyone in his classification. For such a young prospect, teams will have to stifle his superb shooting for a chance to advance.
Cambridge (19-8) | Milton, GA
Notable wins: Pope, Duluth, North Atlanta, Chattahoochee
Notable players: SR Kamar Robertson, SR Bryce Boutelle, SOPH Matthew Cleveland
Notes: A very fun team to watch, the Bears are playing their best basketball in the back end of their season. They are 9-1 over their last 10 games and clicking on all cylinders. Cambridge does its best work when they are in rim attack mode.
Apalachee (11-16) | Winder, GA
Notable wins: Lanier, Gainesville
Notable players: SR AJ Millbrooks, JR Jamonte Wallace
Notes: The Wildcats got hot in the region tournament and earned their place with a No. 1 seed out of Region 8 after beating No. 1 seed Lanier and Gainesville in the championship game. This is the first time since 2004 Apalachee has hosted a home game in the state tournament.
THREE BEST FIRST ROUND GAMES
Chattahoochee (22-6) at Sprayberry (22-4): This one should be incredibly entertaining. These two teams boast two of the fastest and highest-powered offenses in the state. Sprayberry puts up nearly 79 points a game while Chattahoochee tallies around 75 a contest.
Sequoyah (21-7) at North Atlanta (20-8): If you like breakneck speed games, pull up a chair for this first round game. Messiah Thompson is North Atlanta’s go-to guys and one of Atlanta’s least talked about stars. For Sequoyah, the junior trio of Jacksen Greco, Myles Martin and Donovan Shipp combined for 50 points a contest.
Gainesville (18-9) at Langston Hughes (16-12): A repeat of last year’s state title game is on deck. Sure, a lot of the faces that squared off against each other just under a year ago are now at different places, this game should still be a good one given it’s bracket history. Langston Hughes is aiming for a third straight state championship.
STORY STARTER POTENTIAL
Joyful Hawkins of Brunswick is one of the best freshmen in Georgia. But not many people have seen the 6-foot-8 forward in person this season. We did at the City of Palms and Hawkins certainly lived up to his billing. Brunswick is no stranger to success in the postseason.
Jaeden Marshall of Richmond Hill is also another youngster from the coastal area to keep an eye. The 6-foot-4 wing is posting 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds a game this season and his RH team went toe-to-toe with Hawkins and Brunswick in the Region 2-AAAAAA championship game.
Douglas County, a No. 4 seed from Region 5, could make some moves in the bracket. One of the reasons why is the defensive presence of 6-foot-5 sophomore Omarion Smith. He’s been key in DC’s 19-win season this year. With a strong run in the bracket, we could see the young big man make a move upward.
Is it possible to call a 21-win team in this bracket a sleeper? If so, then Mundy’s Mill should be at the top of the list. The Jonesboro school could even be a Final Four contender in their section of the bracket. Rayquan Brown, Jordan Black and Demarcus Fanning are all over 6-foot-5 and are all seniors who crash the boards. That size could be a real problem for some teams in bracket play.
Bradwell Institute is a team that you just can’t quite figure out. After starting the season 2-11, the Tigers have gone 9-4 (with a 6-game win streak in the middle of that run). They have one of the best senior sleepers in the state in Javonte LeCounte. The 6-foot-4 wing is averaging 17.7 points and 10 rebounds a game. He's also a threat out to the three-point line.
FINAL FOUR PICKS
Justin Young: Coffee, Chattahoochee, Alexander, Tucker
Tai Young: Chattahoochee, Dacula, Cambridge, North Atlanta
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PICKS
Justin Young: Chattahoochee, Tucker
Tai Young: Chattahoochee, Dacula
Justin Young: Chattahoochee
Tai Young: Chattahoochee