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Gwinnett fills state tourney
Twenty-three teams to play this weekend

The NCAA may have its "March Madness," but it could be said 23 high school basketball teams in Gwinnett County are about to experience a "February Frenzy."

With the region tournament's completed this past weekend, 13 county girls teams and 10 boys squads in four different classifications now turn their attention to the Georgia High School Association's state tournament, which get under way this weekend.

"Right now, 32 teams (in each of the state's five classifications) are focused on playing for a state title," said Parkview boys coach Tim Watkins. "Sooner or later, you've got to play the best teams in order to win it."

Watkins' Panthers (20-6) will certainly have to take on one of the state's best Class AAAAA teams by traveling to top-ranked Wheeler in the first round Friday night in Marietta.

That matchup demonstrates just how much can change in the course of a week during the region tournaments as Parkview entered the Region 8-AAAAA tournament as the No. 1 seed, only to fall to fourth after losses to Central Gwinnett and Meadowcreek. It also demonstrates that there are no easy matchups when it comes to the state tournament. Take Region 7-AAAAA boys champion Norcross, for example. The Blue Devils (24-2), ranked No. 2 in the Georgia Sports Writers Association's poll and nationally-ranked most of the season, don't exactly have a pushover for their first-round opponent in eighth-ranked Harrison (20-8), which they host Friday night.

But perhaps the best example of how perilous state tournament brackets can be is Dacula's boys team, which is 26-2 and ranked No. 6 in Class AAAA.

Despite those impressive credentials, they Falcons will receive no breaks in their fickle bracket as they play host to Tucker after the fourth-ranked Tigers slipped to the No. 4 seed from Region 6-AAAA.

"We're just really excited about winning region, and we want to take things one step at a time," coach Justin Grant said. "It's a really tough road we have, but I told our kids that from the get-go since we were matched up with Region 6.

Gwinnett's girls teams will have it no easier in the first round, even top-ranked and Region 7-AAAAA champion Mill Creek (24-1).

The Hawks begin their quest to become the seventh champion in the last eight years in the state's highest classification - and the sixth from Region 7-AAAAA - when they host Campbell. Meanwhile, the county's other top-seeded Class AAAAA team - Region 8-AAAAA champion Parkview (24-3) draws perennial Region 6-AAAAA power Milton.

And Gwinnett's two Class AA titans - GAC and Wesleyan - hope to begin a collision course for each other when the No. 3 and Region 6-AA champion Spartans (23-4) host Union County and the top-ranked and Region 6-AA Wolves (25-3) welcome sixth-ranked Fannin County. The two teams have met for the state title each of the past two seasons, with GAC taking last year's crown and Wesleyan winning in 2006.