Berkmar ready for mighty Wheeler

Tommy McWhorter knows what to expect when his Berkmar boys basketball team takes on No. 1-ranked Wheeler tonight.

The former South Cobb coach saw the Wildcats in the 2006 Elite Eight and lost 77-66.

Two years later with a different team, McWhorter would love a different result in the Class AAAAA playoffs, which will be played at Mt. Zion-Jonesboro.

"I know Doug (Lipscomb) and what kind of team he'll bring," McWhorter said after Tuesday's second-round win over South Forsyth.

"I remember playing them two years ago in the Elite Eight, we had our opportunities. I think it's going to be a pretty good game, at least I hope it is."

After missing the playoffs the last three years, McWhorter has the Patriots one win away from a trip to the Arena at Gwinnett Center and the Final Four in his second year at the Lilburn school.

This is Berkmar's first trip to the Elite Eight since 2002 when it was put out of the third round by Wheeler.

The Wheeler roster could pass for a college team. Senior Dequan Jones has already signed with Miami, but the Wildcats have three future Division I players. Guard Tahj Tate and forwards Ari Stewart and Richard Howell, who transferred from Central Gwinnett last year, all have offers from ACC and SEC schools.

Wheeler is 28-2 this season and both losses came out of state. The Wildcats have an 18-game win streak, including playoff wins against Parkview and McEachern.

Berkmar (23-5) has its own star in Wesley Witherspoon, one of the top unsigned seniors in the country. Witherspoon averages nearly 18 points a game, while De'Marion Gordon averages 16 points.

If Berkmar can get past the mighty Wildcats it would be the first time it has reached the Final Four since 2001 when it won back-to-back state titles under David Boyd.

Wheeler has won three state championships this decade, the most recent in 2005.

In the other Class AAAAA boys game, Norcross will go for its fourth trip to the Final Four against Northview.

"I know they are going to be big with Ralph Sampson. They have a good team and it seems like they are playing with a lot of emotion right now," Norcross coach Eddie Martin said after Tuesday's game.

The 6-foot-11 Sampson is the son of former NBA All-Star Ralph Sampson and will play at Minnesota next season.

The No. 3 seed out of Region 6-AAAAA, Northview is 21-8 this season. It defeated Central Gwinnett and Marietta to reach the Elite Eight.

Sampson will take on his AAU Georgia Stars teammate and Norcross forward Al-Farouq Aminu, one of the top players in the country. Aminu, a Wake Forest signee, is averaging nearly 22 points a game and has a strong supporting cast in guards Taariq Muhammad and Denzail Jones and forward A.J. Hawkins.

The Region 7-AAAAA champs are 26-2 this season with both losses coming to out-of-state teams. Norcross defeated Harrison and Centennial to reach the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils have not lost to a team from Georgia since Peachtree Ridge beat them last year in the region tournament.

This year's senior class holds a 114-10 record with three state finals appearances, including the last two Class AAAAA state titles.

In the Class AAAAA girls games, Mill Creek will take on Marietta and Parkview will play Duluth.

Wesleyan is the only Gwinnett County school with both its teams still in the Class AA tournament. The boys will play Pace Academy, who they beat 67-55 on Jan. 2. The girls take on Buford, who they've beaten three times by an average of 22 points this season. Both games are at The Forum in Rome.

SideBar: State hoops

Quarterfinal matchups in the state tournament:

Today's games


At Mt. Zion-Jonesboro

7 p.m. - Mill Creek girls vs. Marietta

8:30 p.m. - Berkmar boys vs. Wheeler

At Marietta

7 p.m. - Parkview girls vs. Duluth

8:30 p.m. - Norcross boys vs. Northview