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State first-round highlighted by 7-AAAAA vs. 8-AAAAA

One of these seasons, Greg Phillips is bound to get a first-round state basketball matchup without a unique personal twist.

His Berkmar boys basketball team lost in last year's state-tournament opener to Roswell, which was coached by his brother Ty. Now the Patriots have one of the more interesting matchups this week in the first round when they face defending Class AAAAA champion Norcross, where Phillips was previously a coach. The Blue Devils are coached by his former colleague, Jesse McMillian.

"Last year when I went against my brother, we knew it was going to be a great-coached team," Phillips said. "This year going against Jesse, we know (Norcross) is going to be well-prepared for this one."

Saturday's matchup is part of an intriguing first-round slate that pits Gwinnett's two regions, 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA, in head-to-head battles this weekend. The girls matchups are Friday night and the boys games are Saturday, though two schools are planning for doubleheaders in the first round.

One is North Gwinnett, which was scheduled for a home girls game Friday vs. South Gwinnett and a home boys game Saturday vs. Central Gwinnett. The Bulldogs are finalizing plans to instead play a Friday doubleheader.

Buford (boys vs. Spencer, girls vs. Kendrick) also is hopeful of a first-round doubleheader with its teams. The Wolves are aiming for the games on Friday, but athletic director Dexter Wood said they could possibly move to Saturday.

The remainder of the games will stay on the days they were originally planned, including three Friday girls games in the AAAAA first round -- Archer at Norcross, Duluth at Parkview and Mill Creek at Brookwood. Unbeaten Parkview hasn't been truly tested all season entering its state opener.

"I've seen most of the teams in all the regions," Parkview girls coach Tony Watkins said. "Having to play Region 7, there's not an easy one in there. I've seen them all. We're playing Duluth. I've seen them. They're capable of beating us. We're probably going to have to play our best game of the year."

The other girls matchups Friday are Greater Atlanta Christian at Jordan in AA, and Wesleyan vs. Paideia in A.

In addition to the Berkmar-Norcross and Central-North boys matchups, the other boys games are scheduled for Saturday, including Dacula at Peachtree Ridge and Mill Creek at Shiloh. In AA, the GAC boys host Callaway on Saturday, the same day the Providence Christian boys take on Landmark.

Two local boys teams, both in Class A, get an early start in the state tourney. Hebron Christian and Wesleyan face play-in games today, with the Lions hosting Lincoln County and the Wolves taking on Greenforest at a neutral site, Holy Innocents'.

A total of 24 Gwinnett teams, including 16 in AAAAA, made the state tournament. Mill Creek, Norcross, North, Buford, GAC and Wesleyan qualified both their boys and girls teams.