Five teams reach state final four

The odds are good that Gwinnett may have a pair of state champions in girls basketball, with four local teams still continuing their pursuit of a title this week.

On the boys side, it's up to Norcross.

Five county teams, including the Collins Hill, South Gwinnett, Greater Atlanta Christian and Wesleyan girls, survived this past weekend's quarterfinals to reach the Final Four. Norcross, Collins Hill and South get to play at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, while GAC and Wesleyan head south to the Macon Centreplex.

The four girls teams are close to setting up state-title rematches. Collins Hill defeated South in the 2006 Class AAAAA finals, while Wesleyan beat GAC in last year's AA championship game.

Collins Hill (29-0) must get by fellow unbeaten Stephenson (31-0) in Thursday's AAAAA girls semifinal, while South (28-2) squares off with Douglass (23-5) at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. The girls winners in AAAAA then meet Friday night for the title.

"(The Gwinnett arena) is a great basketball facility and we're excited to be able to come back home," South girls coach Mike Allison said. "Hopefully we'll be able to get more of our fans in there (than last week in Macon). It's going to be a lot of fun to come home and play in that building."

In AA, the GAC girls (30-1) face Laney (29-2) in Thursday's Final Four and the Wesleyan girls (25-7) battle Randolph-Clay (29-0). Wins by both Gwinnett schools would set up a rematch of last year's finals, and it also would be the fourth GAC-Wesleyan game this season and eighth in the past two seasons.

Three-time defending champion Wesleyan won all four meetings during the 2005-06 season, but GAC has won all three this season. The AA girls final is slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday in Macon.

"It doesn't matter to us (if we play GAC)," Wesleyan girls coach Jan Azar said. "I'm sure it would be nice for GAC to beat Wesleyan and I'm sure it would be nice for Wesleyan to beat GAC. But if we come away with a state championship, I don't care who we beat."

Top-ranked Norcross (27-3) is just two steps away from repeating as boys state champion in AAAAA. It won state last season to break a long drought for the school - the Blue Devils' only other state title came from their baseball team in 1963.

Now the loaded boys basketball team can make it back-to-back state championships with two more wins. Norcross opens Thursday with Tift County (20-9), with the winner facing the Centennial-M.L. King victor on Friday in the finals. Centennial (25-4) has won 18 straight games, while M.L. King boasts a 23-7 record.