Must-see match-ups in Georgia's Sweet 16 round, part I
After a dazzling first round of action in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs, the bracket now has even better action in store for the games on Feb. 19 and 20th. We take a look at some of the best games in the second round and spotlight five games you will want to see in the Peach State this week.
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Pebblebrook (16-13) at Grayson (27-1)
AAAAAAA Sweet 16
Sure, a quick glance at the records may say this is an unbalanced match-up but don’t let those numbers in parentheses fool ya. This will be a grudge match. Pebblebrook comes prepared for a Sweet 16 road match-up like this one. The Falcons carry some battle scars from Region 2-7A and have been forged by fire in that schedule. Pebblebrook is a roster deep with college-level talent. The size of Jamal Clyce, Tyler Shirley and Kaleb Washington is hard to contend with at the high school level. All three guys stand 6-foot-5 or taller and can stretch the floor with their offense but guard the paint. Let’s not forget just how good and talent-rich Grayson is either. The Deivon Smith (MIssissippi State) and Caleb Murphy (South Florida) combo has torched all comers this season and the Grayson guards have seen it all. They won’t be intimidated or bothered by the pressure that coach George Washignton will be sending their way on the defensive end of the floor. Where Grayson has shined this year is the supporting cast. Toneari Lane and Josh Smith have been incredible seniors for the Rams this season. They’ve routinely answered the call. Could junior Ian Schieffelin be the difference-maker in this game just like he was against McEachern?
MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Keep a close watch on the Danny Stubbs (Pebblebrook) vs Deivon Smith (Grayson) battle in the backcourt. Stubbs has been really good down the stretch for the Falcons. He’s become the team’s best perimeter option and loves to push the pace. That falls in line with the way Smith likes to play. He’s a well-documented blur from end to end. Stubbs will have his hands full. Smith will be on the move as he keeps pace with Stubbs. Fun head-to-head here. - Justin Young
Statesboro (21-6) at Buford (21-6)
AAAAA Sweet 16
With two of the most storied coaches in the state of Georgia on the sidelines, we have a chance to see some big-time history play out in this game. Statesboro’s Lee Hill and Buford’s Eddie Martin bring a combined 82 years of head coaching experience to the sidelines for this game. Between them, they have 1,700 wins. Hill is the winningest active boys basketball coach in Georgia. He is in his 44th season of coaching and has won over 850 games in his career. Martin is in his 38th season of coaching. He's amassed over 800 wins and has won nine state titles in his career, winning multiple times at Norcross, Greater Atlanta Christian and at Buford. This may be the biggest coaching resume game we’ve ever seen in the state tournament in Georgia. That alone is worth the price of admission in the second round.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Zarion Griffin of Statesboro was the Region 2-5A Player of the Year and he’s been the rock for the Blue Devils this season. His game will certainly be challenged by the gameplan that Martin and his staff puts together. Griffin is a hard-playing rim attacker that should challenge the smaller and younger Buford lineup. That’s why it would make a lot of sense to see Martin pair his senior Caleb Williams with Griffin. Williams is the most experienced player for the Wolves. - Justin Young
Lithonia (25-3) at Veterans (25-3)
AAAAA Sweet 16
What more could you want from a sweet sixteen matchup? Both teams have the guard play, tough-minded interior players and makeup of fighting through tough games. Both teams have put together impressive winning streaks throughout the season while having impressive wins away from home. Eric Gaines and Deangelo Hines are the perimeter playmakers that can be counted on to make offense easy for their respective teams. The X-factor for Veterans could be uber-athletic wing Horace Johnson as his athleticism and scoring make for a difficult matchup. For as good as the guard play is, the outcome of the game may be decided in the trenches. I expect a fight to the end between Lithonia’s Frank Champion and Veterans TJ Grant. Whoever limits the other fast break points will put themselves in a good position to win the game.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH: TJ Grant vs. Frank Champion is as good of a dog fight as you’ll find in the second round. Both players have some versatility but they hang their hat on what they can get done in the paint. While Eric Gaines has received the bulk of the attention for Lithonia (rightfully so) it is Frank Champion that routinely gets his hands dirty. Grant is ahead of the curve physically for a sophomore and has not shown any signs of being unwilling to play a physical style of basketball. Ultimately, this game could be decided by who wins this matchup. - Tai Young
Langston Hughes (20-8) at Valdosta (24-3)
Class AAAAAA Sweet 16
Of all of the games in the second round, this one should be the best one not played in the metro Atlanta area. These are two teams that come ready to compete. Langston Hughes had to go on the road and pick up a tough 48-45 win at Cambridge to advance. Now they travel south down Interstate 75 for a battle against the Wildcats. Valdosta recorded a 62-50 win over Grovetown in the first round. This game has head coaches who have both won a pair of state titles in recent memory. Valdosta's Darrell Lockhart won two titles when he led Upson Lee. Rory Welsh has a pair of titles for Langston Hughes. They both were tops in their respective classifications in 2017 and 2018.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Keep a close watch on Langston Hughes guard PJ Carter and Valdosta’s Rickey Brown. Both guys are bucket getters. Carter, a Campbell signee, is a versatile backcourt producer while Brown is one of the best available seniors and one of the best shooters in the entire state tournaments in Georgia. Both guys will have to shine on the defensive end of the floor to help their teams advance. - Justin Young