Five things to watch for at this week's AHSAA Final Four

Xavier Williams

The AHSAA Final Four tips off Monday morning in Birmingham inside Legacy Arena and runs till Saturday evening. Between now and then, seven boys and girls teams will be crowned state champions and even more stories will be written to conclude another chapter in Alabama high school hoops.

Plenty of things are bound to unfold, but here are five storylines to watch throughout the week…

1.) Can previous champions repeat?

There are a handful of programs that are looking to reclaim their spot at the top of their respective classification after winning state championships last year.

Small-school powers Sacred Heart and Lanett will look to defend their 1A and 2A state titles from last season. Both are heavily favored to run the tables again with practically the same teams returning from last season, but Georgiana and Barbour County would love nothing more than to boot both teams out of another state championship performance.

Madison Academy won the 3A state championship last season, but a move in classifications has them chasing a 4A title this year. Can the Mustangs claim another championship a year removed from the illustrious career of McDonald’s All-American Joshua Langford? Myles Parker, Collin Blanchard, and Calvin Walker are looking to write their own stories in the Madison Academy record books.

Mae Jemison, formerly known as J.O. Johnson, will technically be defending their 5A state championship from last season in the school’s first year of existence. Alabama signee John Petty will look to cap off a Mr. Basketball campaign with another state ring.

2.) What does Xavier Williams do for an encore?

Parker junior big man Xavier Williams (pictured above right) missed much of the beginning of the season due to injury, but it’s safe to say he is playing at a high level right now.

The 6-foot-8 skilled 4 man put on a couple of offensive clinics during regionals at Jacksonville State last week, drawing the eye of many different college coaches in attendance. At his size, Williams is unique with his passing and ball skills, as well as his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter. He is a perfect Princeton system prospect that is bound to be highly recruited when everything is all said and done.

Williams already holds a handful of scholarship offers, but who else enters the picture after this week? If there’s one player to keep an eye on throughout the state tournament, it’s Xavier Williams. He’s just beginning to scratch the surface.

3.) What is the semi-final game not to miss?

Granted, this is the Final Four, and all of the games should be highly entertaining. However, there is one really intriguing matchup that I would suggest not to miss throughout the week.

Midfield and Holly Pond have been on a collision course for a state tournament matchup for the past month. It’s a shame this game will only be a semi-final with 3A’s No. 1 and No. 2 squads matching up against each other, but no matter the time-frame, it’s safe to say it’s going to be a fun one.

Both teams have put up impressive offensive numbers this season. In fact, both recently dropped 100 points in playoffs games during their route to Birmingham. Tuesday at 10:30 A.M., the Patriots and the Broncos will take the floor and there’s bound to see some fireworks. Hopefully the scoreboards at the BJCC are ready for what’s coming their way!

Shy Cunningham vs. Drew Jones. Kam Woods vs. Bailey Smith. Throw in Matt Cahoon, Griffin Morris, and Kalon Williams and this has all the makings of a classic Final Four game.

Two other games to watch…

Austin vs. Paul Bryant: Both of these teams are similar in stature and team makeup. Both have length, athleticism, and versatility that make them unique matchups for other teams, but with all of that cancelling out, what gives? Anthony Mason vs. Dylan Robertson is an intriguing dance in the paint, but Troy signee Javan Johnson and 2018 combo guard Jared Sherfield are bound to turn some heads in this one.

Hale County vs. Cordova: Both Hale County and Cordova have been staple teams in the polls throughout the year. Alabama signee Herb Jones is the standout here, but Cordova junior Isaac Chatman is ready to win a state championship after coming up just short last season. Also be sure to keep an eye on Chris Rollins and Kolbi Fuqua down low.

4.) Which classification will be the toughest to win?

Like we mentioned above, this is the Final Four and there’s nothing to sneeze at in any of the respective classifications. However, I do think 4A will be an interesting to watch because I literally could see it going any of the four ways.

Hale County vs. Cordova and Monroe Academy vs. Madison Academy are the matchups – and those are some pretty impressive matchups. All teams have a mixture of star-power and talent, as well as the history of being in Birmingham.

The Hale County-Cordova game was mentioned above in one of the games not to miss, and Madison Academy’s march for another state championship has been documented. But don’t count out Monroe County.

Last year, Monroe County was primed for a state championship run before then-sophomore Tyler Stallworth went down with an ankle injury that knocked him out of the game. This year, Monroe is back and looking for redemption behind a healthy Stallworth and Alabama A&M signee DeAndre Robinson.

4A checks all the boxes with players and talent. Herb Jones? Isaac Chatman? Myles Parker? Tyler Stallworth?

4A has them all. Enjoy those round of games Tuesday evening!

5.) Can senior signees deliver state championships?

John Petty. Herb Jones. Garrison Brooks. Javan Johnson. Kevion Nolan. DeAndre Robinson.

Six different players. One thing in common and all with one common goal.

Each of the six players signed a National Letter of Intent to play Division-1 basketball back in November. Now with their high school careers hanging on by a thread, they’re looking to conclude this chapter with the best thing possible: a state championship.

Alabama fans will have the opportunity to get another early peek at John Petty and Herb Jones, while they will also be able to checkout future SEC foe and Mississippi State signee Garrison Brooks.

Javan Johnson (Troy), Kevion Nolan (Samford), and DeAndre Robinson (Alabama A&M) will all remain within the state’s borders to play their college basketball. It will be another great opportunity for basketball fans to see the next crop of college stars from the state.

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