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Basketball: Previews of first-round state tournament matchups
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North Forsyth's Ansley Allen dribbles past Forsyth Central's Aisha Dabo during the Region 5-7A girls basketball tournament title game on Feb. 8, 2019 at North Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

GIRLS

North Forsyth vs. Newton

When, where: Friday, 7 p.m. at North Forsyth

Records, rankings, seedings: North is 23-4, ranked No. 8 in Class 7A and the No. 1 seed from Region 5-7A; Newton is 10-17, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 4 seed from Region 8-7A

What to know: This doesn’t look like the easiest matchup for the Raiders, at first glance: a defending state finalist from one of the better girls regions in Class 7A. The Rams lost six seniors from last season’s team, though, and the returners haven’t maintained that standard. Newton is far from hopeless, though, and with Caroline Martin’s status still in doubt for North, this could be among the closer 1-4 matchups in the tournament.

What’s next: Parkview or Duluth in the second round.

Forsyth Central vs. Archer

When, where: Friday, 6 p.m. at Forsyth Central

Records, rankings, seedings: Central is 17-11, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 2 seed from Region 5-7A; Archer is 18-9, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 3 seed from Region 8-7A

What to know: Central did follow through on the promise of last season in this current campaign, winning twice in the region tournament to get a hosting gig in the state playoffs. But this matchup could be a tricky one: Archer has a strong resume for a No. 3 seed, having beaten West 54-40 earlier in the season and taken fourth-ranked Grayson to overtime.

What’s next: Collins Hill or Central Gwinnett in the second round.

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West Forsyth's Calie Thrower starts a fast break during the Wolverines' game against Lambert on Jan. 25, 2019 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

West Forsyth at Rockdale County

When, where: Friday, 6 p.m. at Rockdale County

Records, rankings, seedings: West is 16-11, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 3 seed from Region 5-7A; Rockdale County is 16-12, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 3 seed from Region 8-7A

What to know: The Wolverines fell victim to Central in a minor upset – at least from a seeding standpoint – in the region tournament, while Rockdale County sprung one of those against Archer in their own region tourney. Apart from that, these teams don’t share much history. West is coming off a strong bounce-back win over South to close out the region tournament, but Rockdale County fell just 61-60 to two-loss Grayson in the Region 8 finals.

What’s next: Brookwood or Mill Creek in the second round.

South Forsyth at Grayson

When, where: Saturday, 6 p.m. at Grayson

Records, rankings, seedings: South is 13-14, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 4 seed from Region 5-7A; Grayson is 25-2, ranked No. 4 in Class 7A and the No. 1 seed from Region 8-7A

What to know: The War Eagles had an encouraging end to the regular season, with a win over Central, close loss to West and big victory over Lambert, but couldn’t sustain that in the tournament, falling big to North and then even bigger to West. And Grayson as a No. 1 is no fluke, with the Rams having taken just two losses all season.

What’s next: Mountain View or Norcross in the second round.

 

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West Forsyth's Broc Bidwell waits for a play to develop during the Wolverines' game against Archer on Dec. 7, 2018. - photo by David Almeda

BOYS

West Forsyth vs. Shiloh

When, where: Saturday, 4 p.m. at West Forsyth

Records, rankings, seedings: West is 13-15, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 2 seed from Region 5-7A; Shiloh is 17-8, 8-2 and the No. 3 seed from Region 8-7A

What to know: The Wolverines have been a baffling team by nature this season, losing their first seven games of the season before improving markedly during the region slate, capped off by an 80-71 win over Lambert in the region semifinals. West’s late collapse against Milton in the region finals was worrying, though, and Shiloh is probably one of the tougher No. 3 seeds in the state, having beaten Grayson, ranked second in all of Class 7A.

What’s next: Discovery or Parkview in the second round.

Lambert at Newton

When, where: Saturday, 7 p.m. at Newton

Records, rankings, seedings: Lambert is 21-6, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 3 seed from Region 5-7A; Newton is 21-7, ranked No. 9 in Class 7A and the No. 2 seed from Region 8-7A.

What to know: This particular matchup might have marked Lambert’s descent from the ranks of the state’s elites this season. Newton shellacked the Longhorns 88-63 in a game on Dec. 1 at UNG, and Lambert performance since then hasn’t made that game seem like a total fluke. The Longhorns’ recent results haven’t made them look like a totally different squad, either, with a not-particularly-close region tourney semifinal loss to West and an uninspiring 75-70 victory over Central in the third-place game.

What’s next: Meadowcreek or Duluth in the second round.

Forsyth Central at Grayson

When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Grayson

Records, rankings, seedings: Central is 7-21, unranked in Class 7A and the No. 4 seed from Region 5-7A; Grayson is 24-3, ranked No. 2 in Class 7A and the No. 1 seed from Region 8-7A.

What to know: This has been an inspiring final act for Central head coach Greg Dirst, who’s stepping down from this position at the close of the season, as he’s led the Bulldogs to their first postseason appearance as a member of Class 7A and their first in general since 2001. But it would be downright miraculous if Central’s run went past Saturday, as Grayson is one of the real title favorite in the classification, led by blue-chip junior prospect Deivon Smith at point guard.

What’s next: Mountain View or Norcross in the second round.

 

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Denmark's Sutton Smith dribbles around a defender during the Danes' game against Chestatee on Dec. 4, 2018 at Denmark High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

Denmark vs. Ridgeland

When, where: Saturday, 6 p.m. at Denmark

Records, rankings, seedings: Denmark is 22-6, ranked No. 10 in Class 4A and the No. 1 seed from Region 7-4A; Ridgeland is 4-22, unranked in Class 4A and the No. 4 seed from Region 6-4A.

What to know: The Danes are already one of the best sports stories in Forsyth County this year, having won the region title without any seniors and topping two teams that beat them earlier in the season to do it. Now they get the gift of facing one of the weaker teams in their bracket. Ridgeland had just one region win all season, and fortuitously enough, it came in the first round of their region tournament against Gilmer, a team to which the Panthers had previously lost by a 68-42 margin.

What’s next: Troup County or Stephens County in the second round.

Pinecrest Academy vs. Galloway

When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Pinecrest

Records, rankings, seedings: Pinecrest are 15-12, unranked in Class 1A-Private and the No. 16 seed in Class 1A-Private; Galloway is 19-7, unranked in Class 1A-Private and the No. 17 seed in Class 1A-Private.

What to know: The Paladins, in their first season under head coach John Bauersfeld, can already call this campaign an unequivocal success: They’ve almost doubled their win total from 2017-18, and this playoff appearance is their first ever as a member of the GHSA. The matchup is likely closer than the teams’ records indicate, as Pinecrest has generally played a tougher schedule, and one common opponent, Wesleyan, is a favorable indicator for the Paladins: Pinecrest beat the Wolves 56-41, while Galloway lost 49-37.

What’s next: St. Francis in the second round.