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STATE HOOPS: Boys first-round previews

Class AAAAA

Berkmar Patriots

Head Coach: Greg Phillips

Record: 21-7

Region: 8-AAAAA, No. 1 seed

First-round opponent: vs. Norcross, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: G Yonel Brown, 5-9, Sr. (12.7 ppg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg); F/G Adonai Rogers, 6-3, Sr. (11.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.5 spg); G Brandon Thompson, 6-0, Sr. (10.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg); C Tim Rowe, 6-9, Soph. (9.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.5 bpg); F Tyler Rogers, 6-5, Sr. (6.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Outlook: The No. 4 state-ranked Patriots come into the state tournament on a roll, having won 15 of their last 17 games, including a pair of upsets over third-ranked Shiloh. Their front line players are top-notch, especially the three-headed monster of Brown, Thompson and Rogers on the perimeter. But they begin their quest for their first state title in 11 years by trying to dethrone reigning champion Norcross. And they will have to make sure to keep both Rowe and Rogers -- the only two players taller than 6-3 -- out of foul trouble to keep their presence in the low post.

Central Gwinnett Black Knights

Head Coach: David Allen

Record: 14-14

Region: 8-AAAAA, No. 3 seed

First-round opponent: at North Gwinnett, today, 8:30 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011Key Players: G Darius Joell, 6-0, Jr. (13.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.1 apg); G Brian Egejuru 5-10, Jr. (6.0 ppg, 5.4 apg); C/F Justin Martin, 6-3, Jr. (5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F Shaun Jones, 6-2, Soph. (6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Eman Westmoreland 6-0, Jr. (7.7 ppg)

Outlook: The Black Knights keep finding a way to battle their way into the state tournament, with tonight's game marking their sixth straight postseason trip. That battle will be an uphill one tonight in a literal sensor the undersized Black Knights against a North team that features several big bodies on the low block. They will have to counter against a scrappy, young roster led by juniors Joel and Egejuru.

Dacula Falcons

Head Coach: B.J. Roy

Record: 15-13

Region: 8-AAAAA, No. 4 seed

First-round opponent: at Peachtree Ridge, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2008 (in Class AAAA)Key Players: F Xavier Okoro, 6-3, Sr. (13.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg); C Anthony Morse, 6-7, Sr. (11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Brandon Goodson, 5-10, Jr. (10.3 ppg, 2.3 apg); G Jaylen Williams 6-0, Jr. (7.0 ppg, 2.1 apg)

Outlook: The Falcons return to postseason play for the first time since making it as a AAAA team in 2008, and have some varied weapons to use in trying to make a run. Okoro and Morse are both offensive threats and ferocious on the boards, while Goodson gives them a threat from 3-point range. But they will have their hands full against the red-hot Lions.

Mill Creek Hawks

Head Coach: Chad Rogers

Record: 21-6

Region: 7-AAAAA, No. 3 seed

First-round opponent: at Shiloh, Saturday, 5 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011Key Players: G Trevon Shaw, 6-2, Jr. (13.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg); G Paul Evans, 6-0, Sr. (11.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg); G Jalen Bracey, 6-0, Sr. (10.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.4 apg); C Daniel Loudermilk, 6-7, Sr. (8.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg)

Outlook: The Hawks have had some mixed results in recent weeks, but have also put together a solid season against a difficult schedule. Shaw Evans and Bracey make up a very dynamic backcourt, which will be needed to use its quickness and athleticism to assist Loudermilk in his battle with Shiloh's twin towers of Robert Carter and Trayvon Reed.

Norcross Blue Devils

Head Coach: Jesse McMillan

Record: 16-11

Region: 7-AAAAA, No. 4 seed

First-round opponent: at Berkmar, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: G Brandon Goodwin, 6-0, Jr.; G Derrick Herbert, 6-1, Sr.; G Mhyles Autry, 5-10 Soph.

Outlook: The Blue Devils begin defense of last year's state title with many question marks, the biggest being whether injured senior post Jason Croom or junior forward Harold Givens will be available. But they've played short-handed for the better part of the last three weeks, the skill of Goodwin and the tournament-tested Herbert and Autry should them a fighting chance, even with a formidable challenge facing them in fourth-ranked Berkmar.

North Gwinnett Bulldogs

Head Coach: Bryan Sellers

Record: 19-9

Region: 7-AAAAA, No. 2 seed

First-round opponent: vs. Central Gwinnett, today, 8:30 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: G Chris Bolden 6-2, Sr. (19.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.8 spg); G A.J. Clements, 6-3, Sr. (10.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.5 apg); C Kwesi Abakah, 6-8, Sr. (7.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg); F Tobias Howard, 5-10, Fr. (7.3 ppg, 3.3 apg); F Kameron Calhoun, 6-3, Fr. (6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Outlook: Before being upset by Peachtree Ridge in the region title game, the Bulldogs had been on a major roll, winning 11 of their previous 12 games. They hope to bounce back behind the dynamic presence of Georgia Tech-bound Bolden, plus a distinct height advantage over a young Central team in the paint.

Peachtree Ridge Lions

Head Coach: Keith Arrington

Record: 19-9

Region: 7-AAAAA, No. 1 seed

First-round opponent: vs. Dacula, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: G Benny Johnson, 5-11, Sr.; G Cole Rives, 6-0, Sr.; F Jordan Capps, 6-5, Jr.; F Brandon Jack, 6-4, Sr.

Outlook: Having finally gotten pretty much back to full strength, the Lions have begun to roar of late, winning their last eight games en route to the region title and a No. 10 state ranking. Capps can score from just about anywhere on the court, while Johnson is quite capable of being able to get the ball to him, as well as several other options able to keep opponents honest.

Shiloh Generals

Head Coach: Kim Rivers

Record: 24-4

Region: 8-AAAAA, No. 2 seed

First-round opponent: vs. Mill Creek, Saturday, 5 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2010

Key Players: F/C Robert Carter, 6-9, Sr.; C/F Trayvon Reed, 7-0, Soph.; G Jordan Gaither, 6-3, Sr.; F Kyle Lewis 6-3, Jr.; G C.J. Keyes, 6-0, Jr.

Outlook: Despite being stunned by Berkmar in the region title game, the third-ranked Generals remain a serious contender for a deep postseason run, especially with the massive low-post duo of Georgia Tech signee Carter and Reed. But the perimeter game, while capable, must pick up the pace, especially with his shooting, in order face a formidable challenge from a quick Mill Creek team.

Class AA

Buford Wolves

Head Coach: Allen Whitehart

Record: 20-7

Region: 6-AA, No. 2 seed

First-round opponent: vs. Spencer, Saturday, 5 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: C T.J. Shipes, 6-8, Sr. (13.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 2.1 spg); F/G A.J. Davis, 6-8, Jr. (12.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 spg); G Isaiah Williams, 6-1, Jr. (13.1 ppg, 3.3 apg, 1.6 spg); G Kyle Kellam, 6-1, Sr. (9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 spg)

Outlook: Aside from Class A powerhouse Whitefield Academy, the only team to beat the eighth-ranked Wolves since the holidays is top-ranked GAC. And with Davis, who first became eligible in January, has begun to jell with the core of Georgia State-signee Shipes and guards Williams and Kellam, the Wolves remain a strong contender to go deep in the tournament.

Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans

Head Coach: Eddie Martin

Record: 23-5

Region: 6-AA, No. 1 seed

First-round opponent: vs. Callaway, Saturday, 4 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: G Delano Spencer, 6-3, Jr. (15.5 ppg, 3.7 apg); G Collin Swinton, 5-9, Jr. (12.1 ppg, 6.0 apg); F/G Cole Hobbs, 6-6, Sr. (11.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg); F Isaiah Wilkins, 6-5, Soph. (7.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg); C Rob Armstrong, 6-7, Sr. (6.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg); F/C Andrew Lewis, 6-6, Jr. (6.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

Outlook: The Spartans have climbed their way to the top of the state polls and seem well-positioned to make a run at their third straight state title. The starting five has an outstanding plenty of size, strength, athleticism and savvy. But they must avoid foul trouble and will probably need more contributions from a young bench.

Class A

Hebron Christian Lions

Head Coach: Will Cantrell

Record: 14-15

Region: 8-A, No. 3 seed

First-round opponent: at Whitefield Academy, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: First state apperance

Key Players: F Dylan Schulte, 6-3, Sr.; G Tyler Matthews, 5-11, Jr.; G/F Ryan Thomas, 6-2, Jr.; G/F Tyler Skidgel, 6-2, Jr.

Outlook: The Lions come in riding high off their first postseason victory over Lincoln County on Tuesday, their fifth win in their last six games. But the task ahead of them is monumental in traveling to No. 2 and perennial powerhouse Whitefield to take on a squad led by Georgia signee Kenny Gaines. They will depend on the leadership of upperclassmen like Schulte, Matthews, Thomas and Skidgel to try to keep up.

Providence Christian Stars

Head Coach: Ivan Iverson

Record: 18-10

Region: 5-A, No. 2 seed

First-round opponent: at Landmark Christian, Saturday, 5 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: F/C Kareem Adekunle, 6-4, Sr.; G Nate Bucher, 6-1, Sr.; G Charlie Scott, 6-1, Jr., G Nikko Cormier, 5-10, Sr.

Outlook: Despite having their seven-game winning streak stopped in a double overtime thriller in the region title game, the Stars are playing quite well heading into Saturday's opener. And the team's core of Adekunle, Bucher, Scott and Comier is tournament tested and should prove to be a strong opponent for Region 9-A runner-up Landmark.

Wesleyan Wolves

Head Coach: Skip Matherly

Record: 18-11

Region: 5-A, No. 4 seed

First-round opponent: at Mount Paran, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Last State Tournament appearance: 2011

Key Players: G/F Shane Smith, 6-3, Sr. (17.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg. 4.4 apg); F/G Charles Mack, 6-1, Jr. (9.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg); F Will Clifton, 6-3, Jr. (15.6 ppg); G Takim Williams, 6-0, Sr. (4.7 apg)

Outlook: The Wolves have kind of flown under the radar most of the season, but bring a lot of state tournament experienced to the table, especially Smith and Williams, who were both part of their state championship team of two seasons ago.