Tourney Time: Five local hoops teams reach Final Four

By Zach Shugan

Nearly 1,000 high school basketball teams in the GHSA, both boys and girls, entered the 2020-21 season with a chance to raise hardware in March, but only 64 teams are left standing after this week’s Elite Eight games.

Five teams from the North Fulton area are among those still in the hunt for a state title in their respective classification: The boys teams from Milton (7A), Centennial (6A), Mount Pisgah (A Private) and St. Francis (A Private) and the girls team from St. Francis (A Private).

The Chattahoochee boys (22-4) saw their chance at repeating as 6A state champions slip away with a last-second loss on the road to Lee County in the Elite Eight.

Final Four games will take place at schools across the state Friday and Saturday, with the winners advancing to next week’s state championship games in Macon.

Below are previews for each local team’s Final Four game and a look at their potential matchup in the state championship game.

BOYS BASKETBALL

Class 7A

Milton vs Pebblebrook

Milton (26-2) continued its tear through the state playoffs last week, beating Newnan by 36 points in the Elite Eight after winning by 21 points over Archer in the Sweet 16. Class 7A’s No. 1-ranked Eagles have been on a revenge tour all season after falling to Wheeler in the 2020 Final Four, and now they’re back in the Final Four the second year in a row.

In their path this time is No. 4 Pebblebrook (25-3), who took down No. 7 North Gwinnett, 75-61, in the Elite Eight. The Falcons have wins over 6A’s No. 2 Kell and 5A’s No. 1 Tri-Cities, and they split two matchups during the regular season with 7A’s No. 3 McEachern, which Milton to lost to by one point in its first game of the season.

If Milton wins over Pebblebrook, it would go down as one of the best wins this season for the Eagles, who have a long list of wins over ranked opponents. Between the caliber of their opponent and what’s at stake for the Eagles, this is certainly the biggest game they’ve played all season.

If Milton wins, it would advance to the state championship game against with the winner of McEachern vs Berkmar.

The 7A boys state championship game is scheduled for Sat., March 13 at 8:00 p.m at the Macon Coliseum.

Class 6A

Centennial vs Wheeler

Centennial knocked off Winder-Barrow last week to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 13 years, but the Knights didn’t stop there.

Class 6A’s No. 8-ranked Centennial (24-4) traveled to the Augusta area on Wednesday and knocked off No. 3 Evans, 81-68, earning a berth to the Final Four. Logan Turner scored a team-high 29 points in the win, and Kyle Duncan (17), Mansir Williamson (16) and K.J. Spooney (10) also scored in double figures.

Next up, the Knights will host No. 1 Wheeler (25-5) this weekend for the chance to play for a state title. The Wildcats are the defending 7A state champs, and like Centennial, they are senior-heavy group.

Centennial entered its Elite Eight matchup with Evans perceived as the underdog, and that will likely be the case in the Final Four against basketball powerhouse Wheeler. The Knights were able to pull off the “upset” of Evans on the road, though, and this time they’ll have a limited but loud home crowd on their side as they take on the loaded Wildcats.

If Centennial defeats Wheeler, it would play the winner of No. 2 Kell and Lee County next week for the title of 6A state champions.

The 6A boys state championship game is scheduled for Fri., March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Macon Coliseum.

Class A Private

Mount Pisgah @ Christian Heritage

Mount Pisgah (25-6) will play in the Final Four the second year in a row after beating St. Anne-Pacelli, 62-55, in a state championship-caliber matchup which took place in the Elite Eight.

Class A Private’s No. 1-Patriots defeated No. 2 St. Anne-Pacelli less than a week after taking down No. 4 Providence Christian in the Sweet 16.

Next up, Mount Pisgah will take on No. 10 Christian Heritage in the Final Four, and the Patriots will be on the road for the first time since Feb. 9.

If Mount Pisgah wins, it would advance to the state championship game for the firs time since joining the GHSA over a decade ago. Not only that, but there’s a chance the Patriots would take on their rival St. Francis in the championship game.

The Class A Private boys state championship game is scheduled for Wed., March 10 at 2:30 p.m. at the Macon Coliseum.

St. Francis @ Holy Innocents’

St. Francis (16-9) is back in the Final Four for the ninth year in a row after going on the road in the Elite Eight and knocking off Class A Private’s No. 3-ranked Greenforest, 65-63, in a rematch of last year’s state championship game.

The No. 9 Knights have won 14 of 16 games since returning from a 45-day hiatus in the middle of the season. They’ll put their season on the line this weekend when they travel to Atlanta to take on No. 5 Holy Innocents’ (15-3) in the Final Four.

The Golden Bears defeated Hebron Christian in the Reg. 5-A Private championship game and have knocked off Athens Christian, Darlington and Savannah Country Day, all unranked opponents, in the first three rounds of the state playoffs.

St. Francis fell to No. 1 Mount Pisgah in the Reg. 6-A Private championship game but has since taken down Walker, No. 6 Galloway and No. 3 Greenforest.

The Class A Private boys state championship game is scheduled for Wed., March 10 at 2:30 p.m. at the Macon Coliseum.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Class A Private

St. Francis vs Holy Innocents’

St. Francis (21-4) returns to the Final Four the ninth year in a row after taking down Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, 55-42, in the Elite Eight. The Lady Knights, who haven’t been crowned state champions since 2016, are looking to send seniors Mia Moore and Morgan Harper out with a state title.

Blocking their path to the state championship game is Holy Innocents’ (13-6), which St. Francis lost to in the 2020 championship game. Both teams look a bit different in 2021, as the Lady Knights lost Savannah Samuel (Oregon State) and Amirah Abdur-Rahim (Notre Dame) to the college ranks, and the Golden Bears lost McDonald’s All-American Jillian Hollingshead, who transferred to McEeachern.

St. Francis has already beaten Holy Innocents’ once this season when the teams met Nov. 21 in the first game of the season. If St. Francis defeats Holy Innocents’ for the second time this season, it would advance to the state championship game for the second year in a row, taking on the winner of Hebron Christian and Galloway.

The Class A Private girls state championship game is scheduled for Wed., March 10 at noon at the Macon Coliseum.

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