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Brookwood, Parkview, Providence try to downplay hype as state finals await

Staff Photo: John Bohn Parkview first baseman Matt Olson (21) celebrates the last out of the game against Mill Creek in a Class AAAAA semifinal  baseball playoff game on Tuesday. Parkview defeated Mill Creek to advance to the state championship.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Parkview first baseman Matt Olson (21) celebrates the last out of the game against Mill Creek in a Class AAAAA semifinal baseball playoff game on Tuesday. Parkview defeated Mill Creek to advance to the state championship.

LILBURN -- Under any circumstances, playing for a state championship is enough to create a buzz around a high school's community.

But for three schools within an 8-mile radius of one another in the Lilburn-Snellville area, the buzz surrounding their baseball teams that will play for a title over the next week is understandably amplified.

Much of that noise will be emanating from Parkview's Hugh Buchanan Field on Saturday after the top-ranked and defending champion Panthers (29-6) and archrival Brookwood (25-10) each earned the right to square off for the Class AAAAA crown Tuesday.

Any regular season meeting between Brookwood and Parkview is enough to get participants, students and fans of the two neighborhood rivals talking.

Add the stakes of a state championship being on the line, which the Panthers and Broncos will play for Saturday beginning with a 4 p.m. doubleheader after beating Gwinnett foes Mill Creek and Grayson respectively in the semifinals, and it's bound to get tongues wagging.

That was definitely the case in the six previous instances the two schools met to decide a state title -- three times in boys soccer, twice in girls soccer and once in football.

Yet, the two teams seem to be taking an attitude that not much more needs to be said.

"It's awesome. It really is," Brookwood coach Rick Howard said Thursday. "There are so many storylines and so many ways you could go with this, but we really haven't talked about (the fact the opponent is Parkview) much. Normally, you'd be talking about (the next opponent) the next day. But this is kind of like playing Grayson in the semifinals. We're so familiar with them because we played them twice in the regular season. We'll probably get into it more (today)."

Likewise, Parkview was more focused on the "what" portion of the equation than the "who" after sweeping Mill Creek with a 5-0 win Tuesday.

Having won last year's title, the Panthers -- particularly the team's seven seniors -- have their own collective legacy on their minds regardless of who the opponent is.

"We're excited," Parkview senior pitcher Jesse Foster said minutes after tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout against Mill Creek on Tuesday. "We're just glad it's not over yet. All the seniors want to go out on top."

Meanwhile, Providence Christian (25-11) will be looking to make a little noise of its own in trying for its first Class A state title.

But the Stars will have to make that noise from farther away and at a later date when they make the near 300-mile trip to Folkston to take on No. 4 Charlton County beginning Monday afternoon.

Though they don't have the potential distractions of playing a local rival for the title, there have been other distractions the Stars have had to avoid throughout the season.

The main one has been working their way back to the finals after falling in two games to Gwinnett rival Hebron Christian a year ago.

But coach Adam Cantrell is particularly pleased with how well his team has dealt with such a distraction.

"We made the decision early in the year that we were not going to talk about getting back to the finals," Cantrell said. "It was on everybody's minds, but we started so slow (0-4 and eventually 6-6), I told them that we can't focus on something a couple months down the road that we have no control over now. We've got to focus on tomorrow. And we've done it one day at a time. Now we find ourselves able to have that conversation that w'eve put on hold for a while."

Cantrell also had to have another important conversation with Charlton County coach Thad Marchman due to the fact that Providence's graduation ceremony is scheduled for Saturday morning -- the same day the GHSA brackets had the opening doubleheader for the state finals scheduled for.

But both schools agreed that due to that ceremony, plus the potential of an extra day off should the two teams split a Saturday doubleheader, that the series should be pushed back to Monday beginning at 2 p.m., with an if necessary third game set for Tuesday at 1 p.m.

"I talked to (Marchman) and he was very understanding," Cantrell said. "Besides, I think everybody appreciates an extra day off this time of year."