There are two big-time rematches, there are two nationally ranked teams, there is an undefeated team, there will be a team that continues their hot post-season run and there is a South Georgia team with something to prove. Welcome to the Class AAAAAAA Elite Eight. The action should be intense and worthy of such a major stage. We take a look at all four games here in the midweek of the Georgia state basketball playoffs.
Grayson (20-9) vs Brookwood (15-13): Both teams have defied the pundits and face off in a battle of familiarity. The two were in the same region last season. The teams split the regular season series and Grayson won the overall edge in the region tournament. Nothing quite like a rivalry game to determine a Final Four slot. This will be a guard battle. Grayson’s backcourt of Travis Anderson and Nick Edwards is quick and great to the rim. Brookwood is strong from the perimeter with Bubba Parham and Trae Higginbotham. Grayson’s size of Gerald Buncum and Kenyon Jackson may be the difference maker in the end. The two posts have been very good in the playoffs.
Pebblebrook (21-7) vs Norcross (24-5): The powerhouses locked horns earlier in the year at Wheeler for the Tournament of Champions, with Pebblebrook coming away with the 77-69 win. Collin Sexton is as tough to guard as anyone in the country. He scored 32 points in the last match-up, going 13-19 from the floor. Since then, however, Pebblebrook has become more balanced on offense. Elias Harden and Drue Drinnon make for a deadly 1-2 punch outside of Sexton. The strength of Norcross is Rayshaun Hammond’s versatility as an inside-outside player. However, he did not have his best game last go round. Instead it was the guards that shined for Norcross last match-up. Kyle Sturdivant and Jordan Goldwire combined for 44 of Norcross’s 69 points. Can the Blue Devils win the battle of the boards? That’s going to be the key in this one.
Newton (28-1) vs Tift County (26-2): After an epic triple overtime win over Westlake on Thursday night, Newton will take a team that is hungry to knock off a team like the Rams. As usual, Tift County is the sleeping giant in South Georgia and should not be taken lightly. The Newton backcourt of JD Notae, Isaiah Miller and Ashton Hagans is as good of a guard lineup there is in Georgia. The Rams are our pick to win the loaded AAAAAAA bracket but Tift County won’t be an easy out. The Blue Devils are paced by Virginia Tech bound PJ Horne, who is as tough of a low-post player there is in Georgia. Westlake’s Chuma Okeke did whatever he wanted against Newton last round. Will Horne have the same kind of success? If he does, Tift County will have a very strong chance of moving on to the Final Four in Carrollton this weekend.
McEachern (27-0) vs Wheeler (20-8): These two met once before this season, with the young McEachern winning 77-67. The Indians are undefeated on the season and check in as the No. 4 ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps. Wheeler, well, let’s just say they’ve underwhelmed after lofty expectations to begin the year. But here they are, in the Elite Eight and looking at a chance for some sort of redemption. McEachern is paced by the state’s top sophomore Isaac Okoro, who is as hard to guard as anyone in the class of 2019 nationally. Wheeler is balanced with talent and wins the size battle at every position. Which backcourt will win the battle of match-ups? That’s going to be the key in this one.
JUSTIN YOUNG’S PICKS
Grayson vs Brookwood: GRAYSON
Pebblebrook vs Norcross: PEBBLEBROOK
Newton vs Tift County: NEWTON
McEachern vs Wheeler: WHEELER