By Guy Curtright
There has been no question from the start of the basketball season that the two-time defending state champion Norcross boys were the class of Region 7-AAAAA this season.
But when it comes to Region 8-AAAAA, the favorite isn't any clearer now that the calendar has flipped to 2008 than it was back in November.
Defending champion Meadowcreek, Parkview and Berkmar have all spent time in the Top 10 of the state coaches poll, but none has established itself as a dominant team yet.
Region play begins in earnest this weekend and, unlike 7-AAAAA, 8-AAAAA will likely be highly competitive almost every day.
In fact, the best record for an 8-AAAAA team doesn't even belong to Meadowcreek, Parkview or Berkmar.
South Gwinnett, under new coach Emmett Rouse, is 8-2 going into its region opener Friday night against Meadowcreek in Snellville.
Parkview is 8-3 in non-region play, while Meadowcreek and Berkmar are 6-3.
Shiloh (4-6) and Grayson (2-8) are the only teams in 8-AAAAA with losing records. Brookwood is 6-4 and Central Gwinnett 6-5, with the Knights beating Shiloh in the only region game played in December.
All of Berkmar's losses have come in out-of-state appearances. The Patriots went 0-2 at the King of the Bluegrass Classic near Louisville despite two strong all-around performances by senior standout Wesley Witherspoon.
Witherspoon hasn't made a college commitment and Kentucky is one of the teams recruiting him heavily.
Meadowcreek won the region championship last season led by Chris Allen, now a freshman at Michigan State. But the Mustangs still feature a top college recruit. Teondre Williams has signed with Oregon.
Parkview loses big lead
The Parkview boys lost to host Hoover, Ala., in the championship game of the Big Orange Classic despite leading by 17 point midway in the third quarter last Saturday.
Hoover scored 59 points in the final 12 minutes and stunned the Panthers 83-77.
"Once we started hitting shots, it was easier to get into the defense we wanted," Hoover coach Charles Burkett told the Birmingham News.
Jamie Smith led Hoover with 27 points and was named the tournament MVP. Colgate signee Yaw Gyawu scored 29 points for Parkview.
Berkmar, Parkview both champs
At 10-1, Berkmar looks like the girls favorite in Region 8-AAAAA. But Parkview shouldn't be counted out.
The Panthers have won eight straight and are 9-2 after winning a tournament in Alabama last weekend. Despite a very young team, Parkview hasn't lost since dropping the final two games in its tip-off tournament.
Berkmar, which broke a long state tournament drought last season, was impressive in winning the Powerade Festival at North Gwinnett last weekend.
Wesleyan boys get a quick test
After winning the Deep South Classic, the Wesleyan boys return to Region 6-AA and get a test tonight when Pace Academy visits.
The Knights, led by senior Zuri James, are 9-4 overall and lead 6-AA North. Wesleyan is 9-2 overall and unbeaten in 6-AA South.
Georgia signee Howard Thompkins averaged 30 points and was named MVP as Wesleyan took the Deep South Classic title. Clemson signee Tanner Smith joined Thompkins on the all-tournament team.
GAC boys need a quick recovery
After winning the first 11 games by an average margin of 26.5 points, the Greater Atlanta Christian boys lost their final two games in the Deep South Classic. Now the Spartans have to bounce back in a hurry.
Lovett, the defending Region 6-AA champion, visits on Thursday and the Lions are at full strength after adding eight players, including three starters, from the football team. Lovett started 1-6 last season and made it to the Class AA state semifinals. The Lions are 8-6 this season and have won six of their past seven games, taking the title in the Westminster Holiday Tournament.