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Second round will take toll on Gwinnett

No matter what happens in the second round of the Class AAAAA state basketball playoffs on Thursday and Friday, Gwinnett County will lose half of its playoff teams in the state's largest classification.

That happens when the brackets dictate that all eight remaining boys and girls teams face another Gwinnett foe with a trip to the state quarterfinals at stake. So when the Elite Eight is decided in Macon later this week, only four of the county's eight in AAAAA will still be alive.

Among the most intriguing second-round matchups in AAAAA features the defending state champion Norcross boys against Meadowcreek in a rematch of a 2006 quarterfinal meeting.

"(Meadowcreek's) got an outstanding team," Norcross boys coach Eddie Martin said. "They put a lot of points on the board and they're very athletic on defense. They get out well, run the floor well. They're one of those teams that has the talent to win it all if they play well."

Yet one of them is done for the season after Thursday night's game. The other Thursday game also is exciting because it pits two of the state's top girls teams, Mill Creek and South Gwinnett, against each other in a rematch of a Dec. 29 Deep South Classic game, won 70-54 by South.

Mill Creek has the distinction of pushing Collins Hill, ranked first nationally by USA Today, to a near upset earlier in the season. Meanwhile South is a state title favorite after making last year's championship game.

Both of those Thursday games are notable, but the attendance may be hurt somewhat because the games are in Macon.

"It's good in that (the Macon Centreplex) will have a basketball atmosphere, there will be a couple of crowds already there when we play and a crowd waiting to watch the next game," South girls coach Mike Allison said. "In that regard, (Macon's) good. I just hate that it's so far and we'll lose some of that fan base. I wish we could do something here with the Gwinnett teams."

Two of the four second-round games in AAAAA on Friday also pit Gwinnett vs. Gwinnett. The first features two-time defending champion Collins Hill vs. Brookwood in a girls game, followed by Parkview vs. Peachtree Ridge in the boys tournament.

The county also has five teams left in the AA brackets, along with Hebron Christian in A. The Hebron girls play Bowdon in Rome on Thursday.

Both Buford and Wesleyan have boys and girls teams still alive in AA, along with the No. 1 Greater Atlanta Christian girls, who play in Dalton Friday at 7 p.m. immediately after the Buford boys. The Buford girls play at 4 p.m. on Thursday in Dalton, followed by two straight games featuring the Wesleyan boys and girls.

The quarterfinals for all classifications will be played on Saturday as teams vie to reach the state semifinals and finals scheduled for March 7-10.