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Basketball: Previews of first-round state playoff matchups
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Lambert guard Jordan McIlwain attempts a lay-up against McEachern on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. - photo by File photo

GIRLS

Lambert at Mill Creek
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Lambert's Jaleah Greene drives to the hoop during the Longhorns' game against Grayson at Lambert High School on Dec. 5, 2017. - photo by Ben Hendren

When, where: Friday, 6 p.m., in Hoschton.

Records, rankings, seedings: Lambert is 16-10, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 3 seed from Region 5-7A; Mill Creek is 15-10, unranked and the No. 2 seed from Region 6.

What to know: The Longhorns hit the road for the state playoffs this time after last season’s region title gave them home-court advantage that helped produced a run to the state quarterfinals. Lambert’s seven seniors have the experience from that historic run to lean on against a Mill Creek team that returned just one starter from last season’s team, senior Bridget Mukasa, that went 25-5, and longtime head coach Andy Phillips stepped down after the season, but the Hawks are back in the state playoffs nonetheless.

What’s next: Central-Gwinnett or Newton in the Class 7A second round.

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North Forsyth's Catherine Shopes goes in for a shot during the fourth quarter against Lambert on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. - photo by Brian Paglia

Mountain View at North Forsyth

When, where: Friday, 7 p.m., at Raider Arena in Coal Mountain.

Records, rankings, seedings: Mountain View is 19-8, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 4 seed from Region 6-7A; North is 25-2, ranked No. 8 and the No. 1 seed from Region 5.

What to know: The Raiders are the highest-ranked team in their part of the bracket, a good situation for the consistently-good program to possibly break through to the state semifinals for the first time ever. The Bears, meanwhile, are the second-highest ranked No. 4 seed in the entire Class 7A playoff field, making this a trickier matchup than most region champions might expect in the first round. Still, North is on a roll, having won 16 straight games and allowing just 28.3 points a game during that span.

What’s next: Brookwood or Grayson in the Class 7A second round.

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Pinecrest Academy's Regina Metz drives to the basket for part of her 36 points against Walker on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. - photo by Bill Brown

Mount de Sales at Pinecrest Academy

When, where: Friday, 6 p.m., at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming.

Records, rankings, seedings: Mount de Sales is 11-15, unranked in Class 1A and the No. 21 seed; Pinecrest is 15-8, unranked and the No. 12 seed.

What to know: The Paladins’ season ended with a 69-59 loss to Christian Heritage in the Region 6-1A semifinals, but they’re back in the state playoffs and hosting a first-round game for the second straight season by virtue of the Class 1A Power Ratings. Regina Metz is the go-to scorer (she had 37 in the Christian Heritage loss), but head coach Ken Lacy, who has already announced he is stepping down after the season, says the team goes as forward Maddie Lynch goes.

What’s next: Prince Avenue Christian in the Class 1A private school second round.

North Gwinnett at South Forsyth
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South Forsyth forward Zoe Maisel drives to the basket for a layup against Forsyth Central on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. - photo by Ben Hendren

When, where: Friday, 6 p.m., at the War Eagle Arena in Cumming.

Records, rankings, seedings: North Gwinnett is 15-11, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 3 seed from Region 6-7A; South is 17-11, unranked and the No. 2 seed from Region 5.

What to know: The War Eagles’ upset over Lambert in the Region 5-7A tournament earned them a first-round state playoff game at home for the first time since 2015. Senior forwards Sara Idris and Zoe Maisel were little-used freshmen then, but they are South’s leading scorers now. Still, high school basketball is a guard’s game, so how sophomores Ashley Breindl and Ryane Williams handle the playoff stage might determine South’s fortunes in a matchup of teams that enter ranked Nos. 24 and 25 in Class 7A by MaxPreps, respectively.

What’s next: Archer or Norcross in the Class 7A second round.

West Forsyth at Collins Hill
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West Forsyth guard Haylee Dornan is congratulated by teammates and head coach David May after hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Forsyth Central on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. - photo by Brian Paglia

When, where: Friday, 6 p.m., at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee.

Records, rankings, seedings: West is 4-21, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 4 seed from Region 5-7A; Collins Hill is 23-2, ranked No. 1 and the No. 1 seed from Region 6.

What to know: The Wolverines are making their fifth-straight state playoff appearance, though none have been as unlikely as this one. West authored a similar upset as its boys team did last season, knocking off an 11-win Forsyth Central in the region tournament. The Wolverines are thus the lowest-rated team in the Class 7A playoff field, and they face the highest-rated one in a Collins Hill team with three bona fide stars in senior Jordan Stallworth (Princeton commit) and juniors Bria Harmon and Javyn Nicholson (Georgia).

What’s next: South Gwinnett or Parkview in the Class 7A second round.

BOYS

Mill Creek at Lambert
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Lambert's Damon Stoudamire Jr. drives to the basket while defended by West Forsyth's Payton Aiken on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. - photo by Ben Hendren

When, where: Saturday, 6 p.m., at the Horn in Suwanee.

Records, rankings, seedings: Mill Creek is 13-14, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 4 seed from Region 6-7A; Lambert is 21-5, unranked and the No. 1 seed from Region 5.

What to know: The Longhorns are on an absolute roll. After suffering their second loss to county rival West Forsyth, Lambert has won six straight by an average of 22.2 points a game, including a 71-52 win against West in the region championship. The Longhorns have been much less dominant in the first round the past three years, winning by an average of just 5 points a game, and Mill Creek comes from a competitive region. Kendall Latney (11.1 PPG) and Noah Kenney (10.6 PPG) are the Hawks’ leading scorers.

What’s next: Meadowcreek or South Gwinnett in the Class 7A second round.

South Forsyth at Peachtree Ridge
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South Forsyth forward Fred Scott tries to maintain control of the ball while defended by Forsyth Central's William Griffin, right, on Friday. - photo by Ben Hendren

When, where: Saturday, 7 p.m., at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee.

Records, rankings, seedings: South is 10-18, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 4 seed from Region 5-7A; Peachtree Ridge is 23-4, ranked No. 5 and the No. 1 seed from Region 6.

What to know: The War Eagles are in the state playoffs for the third straight season, a feat not accomplished in the program since a run of appearances from 2002-04. South has a mighty task, though. Peachtree Ridge is a top-5 team, mostly thanks to Florida State signee Devin Vassell. The senior guard leads the Lions in scoring (22.3 PPG), rebounding (7.3 RPG), assists (2.5 APG), steals (1.5 SPG) and blocks (1.3 BPG). Six other Lions players averaged between 6.6 and 3.8 points a game.

What’s next: Berkmar or Grayson in the Class 7A second round.

Duluth at West Forsyth
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West Forsyth's Terrence Taylor drives for a basket against Woodstock on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. - photo by Ben Hendren

When, where: Saturday, 7 p.m., at The Den in Cumming.

Records, rankings, seedings: Duluth is 19-9, ranked No. 10 in Class 7A and the No. 3 seed from Region 6-7A; West is 16-12, unranked and the No. 2 seed from Region 5.

What to know: West is hosting a state playoff game for the first time in program history, a nice accomplishment in just head coach Fredrick Hurt’s second season. But, boy, do they have it tough. Duluth is ranked in the top 10 by MaxPreps and is a well-rounded team between shooting guard Adam Flagler (16.9 PPG), forward Will Huzzie (13.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and point guard Lamont Smith (5.2 APG). Plus, Wildcats coach Cabral Huff led St. Francis to the 2014 Class 1A private school state title.

What’s next: Archer or Norcross in the Class 7A second round.