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Long journey for hoops fans to next round

Not everyone was happy with how the Georgia High School Association's state tournament brackets worked out this basketball season, but it might work out fine for Brookwood athletic director Mark Kimbro.

An inability to find a venue in north Georgia forced the GHSA to schedule this week's Class AAAAA second round and quarterfinal games - made up entirely of metro Atlanta high schools - in Macon. So on Thursday and Friday, four second-round games will be Gwinnett vs. Gwinnett matchups, although they will be played roughly an hour and a half south of here.

The distance to Macon isn't appealing for locals, but one of the few positives of the long trip is that it may give Kimbro a chance to ride his motorcycle.

"It's a great motorcycle trip (to Macon)," Kimbro said. "(Athletic secretary) Mrs. (Ann) Smith said it might rain on me. But if it's not raining I'll be on it for sure."

It seems silly for local teams to drive so far to play other metro Atlanta schools, but the GHSA was forced into that situation earlier this year when the Georgia Dome was made unavailable by renovations. A search for other sites around metro Atlanta didn't bring an available arena that provided enough seating to host games for the state's largest classification.

The result is that two schools with Norcross addresses, Meadowcreek and Norcross, will play each other Thursday night in Macon in a second-round boys game.

"I don't know all the factors behind the Georgia High School Association, so I'm not going to criticize them," Norcross boys coach Eddie Martin said. "But Regions 5 through 8 are all from metro Atlanta. Yes, Macon is a great venue, a great site. But there are a lot of fans who don't get to go down there for the games."

The Norcross-Meadowcreek game will be preceded by a girls game between Mill Creek and South Gwinnett, and Friday's games include Brookwood-Collins Hill in girls action and Parkview-Peachtree Ridge in boys.

"It comes down to (the GHSA) having trouble finding a site in metro Atlanta," Mill Creek girls coach Ashley Phillips said. "It's not just Gwinnett County though. Every team down there (in Macon) is a metro Atlanta team."

Sometimes the late starts in a place so far away make it tough on the high school students. For example, the Meadowcreek-Norcross game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m., if it starts on time. So that makes for quite a late night for students from the two schools.

In the case of fans of Brookwood and Collins Hill, they have a different problem. Their Friday game is at 4 p.m., so they need to leave right after school gets out to make it to Macon in time.

For now, Kimbro said there haven't been any plans made to release students early for the Macon trip. It would be nicer for the teams to play in metro Atlanta, but that won't be on the players' minds this week as much as it will wear on the fans.

"It's a state tournament game, so you don't worry about where you're playing, you worry about winning," Kimbro said. "It's still a game. Sure I'd rather play close to home. I'd rather play it in our gym. But you expect a state tournament game to be somewhere on the road."

Even if this road is farther than most fans care for.

Thursday's second-round matchups

Class AAAAA

At Macon Centreplex

•7 p.m. - Mill Creek vs. South Gwinnett girls

•8:30 p.m. - Norcross vs. Meadowcreek boys

Class AA

At Northwest Ga. Trade Center,

Dalton

•4 p.m. - Buford vs. Macon County girls

•5:30 p.m. - Wesleyan vs. Manchester boys

•7 p.m. - Wesleyan vs. Putnam County girls

Class A

At Georgia Highlands

College, Rome

•7 p.m. - Hebron Christian vs. Bowdon girls