Photo by Ben Beitzel

Photo by Ben Beitzel

Overall, 10 boys and girls basketball teams from five different classifications were crowned as state champions by the Georgia High School Association over the weekend.

Half of those champions call Gwinnett County home as girls teams from Buford, Norcross and Wesleyan and boys teams from GAC and Wesleyan brought home trophies from their respective title games.

"That just shows you the strength of what (high school) basketball is like in Gwinnett County," said GAC boys coach Eddie Martin, whose Spartans captured the Class AA boys championship with a 77-65 win over Thomasville on Saturday in Macon, his fourth title as a coach after leading Norcross to three straight from 2006-08. "The level of play in Gwinnett County has picked up tremendously over the last 10 years or so."

With four more combined titles being won by teams from neighboring DeKalb County and the other being won by the Milton boys -- coached by former Berkmar coach David Boyd -- there is no doubt the current balance of basketball power lies in the eastern metro Atlanta area, with the 10 titles being won by schools within a 40-mile radius of each other.

And Gwinnett appears to be at the epicenter of that balance of power.

With Saturday's results, Gwinnett teams have now won a total 20 girls championships over four different classifications and nine boys titles over three different classifications since 2000.

The most titles among that group is Wesleyan, which pulled off a rare sweep when both the Wolves girls and boys teams won their respective Class A championship games Saturday in Macon -- the girls beating Savannah Christian 65-49 and the boys dethroning 2009 champion Whitefield Academy 63-52.

As rare a feat as it is, Wesleyan accomplished it for the second time in the last three seasons, making the Norcross private school the only GHSA school to pull it off more than once.

"That's something special," said Wolves senior forward Griffin Schamp, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds in Saturday's win, and was one of only three players on this year's roster in uniform for Wesleyan's 2008 title win. "Two times in three years -- I think that says something about our program."

For the Wesleyan girls, Saturday's title was their third straight and seventh in the last nine seasons.

It was a fine farewell for six seniors whose only non-championships season in their careers came during their freshman campaign in 2007, when they finished as Class AA state runner-up to GAC.

"I actually got to start that (2007) game, which was pretty cool," recalled one of those seniors, Erin Hall, who had nine points for the Wolves in Saturday's win. "I know Logan (Morris) and Aysia (McKenzie) played a little in that game, too.

"The fact we had to work so hard for (Saturday's) win does make it more satisfying. ... When (Savannah) Christian got down, they didn't give up."

Indeed, Saturday's winning margin for the Wolves -- who actually trailed 14-11 after the first quarter -- was one of the closest during their run of titles.

And Azar agrees that having to work so hard for the title made it one of the more satisfying ones during the run.

"It doesn't get old," Azar said. "Especially on a day like (Saturday) when we were not at our best. For the girls to battle like they did, I'm just very proud of them."

While Buford's run of titles isn't quite as long as Wesleyan's, the Wolves' 50-38 win over previously unbeaten Vidalia was their second straight Class AA title.

It is also the latest in an impressive run by the school's girls sports over the last three years, adding to the three straight championships claimed by the Buford softball team.

"It's just crazy," said Buford senior Alysha Rudnik, who has played on all five title teams. "I really feel blessed to have been on so many great teams."

Rudnik and sophomore Andraya Carter were two of the few members of this year's team to have played regular minutes to return from last year's title team that graduated eight seniors, including four now playing college basketball.

So posting back-to-back titles despite so many new faces made Saturday's win that much more special.

"It's better this time," said Carter, who had game highs of 20 points and six assists in Saturday's win. "Last year, everybody knew about us. But this year, ... there was a lot of doubt we'd even get here. It was a challenge. That's what made it fun."

The two newcomers among this year's Gwinnett Parade of Champions were the GAC boys, who won their first title since 1977, and Norcross girls, who posted their first championship ever.

The Spartans' title wrapped up an impressive 32-1 season in which the only loss was a four-point setback to Memphis powerhouse Melrose, and as the latest in a line of titles this decade for Martin.

Likewise, Norcross girls coach Angie Hembree is no stranger to state championships, having guided Collins Hill to three of its five titles this decade.

But it was the first for a Blue Devils girls program that seen their boys counterpart take home three straight titles from 2006-2008.

It was also satisfying to many Norcross students and fans, who where just a controversial quarterfinal loss by the boys to eventual champion Milton away from celebrating dual titles like Wesleyan.

"It was nice for the girls to bring it home with the boys consistently being so great," said Norcross senior Briana Jordan.