0

Mustangs aim to snap streak

Gwinnett's six remaining teams in the state high school boys basketball tournaments have trends to deal with when they tip off second-round games tonight, whether it be trying to continue good trends or put an end to negative ones.

Perhaps the game that most epitomizes that theme is in Class AAAAA, when Norcross and Meadowcreek square off in the state tournament for the fourth time in the last five years tonight at 7 at the House of Blue.

The top-ranked and host Blue Devils (26-2) have won all three of the previous matchups, two of which propelled them to state titles.

Needless to say, the No. 10 Mustangs (24-5) -- especially seniors like Terrance Glass, Aaron Robinson and John Ruff -- are eager to put an end to the Norcross curse.

"They've been talking about it," Meadowcreek coach Billy Davis admitted. "They believe it's about time the other (Class AAAAA) team from Norcross got one.

"(The players) know what they've got to do. They know they've got a big task ahead of them and that (Norcross) has a big home court advantage. But I think they're up to the task this year. We're going to play. I think it will be a good game."

Last year's meeting turned out to be a good one as the Mustangs rallied from a 25-point deficit before coming up short in Norcross' 64-58 victory.

"Last year, we got behind early, and you can't afford to get behind against a team like (Norcross)," Davis said. "We walked into the gym (before the game) and our guys kind of looked up at the banners, and the coaches saw that and said, 'Uh-oh.' I think our kids are used to that now. That's why we scheduled the (tough out of region) games we played this year."

While Norcross has history on its side, Blue Devils coach Jesse McMillan has some concerns about Meadowcreek.

The Mustangs can bring as many as five different players off their bench who will get significant minutes, while Norcross doesn't often go far beyond its starting lineup -- led by Connecticut signee Jeremy Lamb -- and top reserve Chris Bolden.

One thing McMillan is certain of, however, is that as close as these two schools are to each other, and as much as their players see of each other in the offseason, there will be few secrets.

"Our kids are familiar with theirs and theirs are familiar with ours," McMillan said of Meadowcreek. "Depth is a concern, as well as the fact they like to get up and down the court and press. But I think the matchups are pretty even, and we've worked on our conditioning. So, I think we'll be OK."

Other games involving Gwinnett teams tonight include:

* Wheeler (23-5) at Central Gwinnett (27-2): The sixth-ranked Black Knights look to advance to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals for just the fourth time since 1969, but must get by the defending state champion Wildcats.

"It's what you expect this time of year," Central coach David Allen said. "If you're playing (high school) basketball in March in Georgia, you expect to play a team that good. ... But we've had two good days of practice, and I think our kids are excited about the challenge."

* Lamar Co. (17-11) at GAC (28-1): The Spartans try to defend their Class AA No. 1 ranking and take one step closer to getting back to the Final Four for the second straight year against the Trojans, who have won four of their last five games.

* Southwest Atlanta Christian (12-17) at Providence (22-6): This isn't quite the SACA of old, which boasted the likes of current NBA players Dwight Howard, Javaris Crittenton and J.J. Hickson.

Still, Providence coach Ivan Iverson sees the Warriors as being dangerous, and knows his Stars can't look ahead to their first trip to the quarterfinals since 2002, even with a possible rematch with Region 7 foe Wesleyan looming.

"We haven't even talked about that," Iverson said of the quarterfinals. "We realize we have a good (second-round) opponent and we have to take it one game at a time."

* Wesleyan (21-6) at Pace Academy (21-8): The eighth-ranked Wolves also don't have an easy opponent tonight in the Knights, who have played close with state-ranked opponents Whitefield Academy and Paideia.