Gwinnett basketball teams hope to build on run of success

File Photo - Wesleyan's Katie Frerking (3) is fouled by Southwest Atlanta Christian's Amy Griffin (21) during the state tournament last year in Macon.

File Photo - Wesleyan's Katie Frerking (3) is fouled by Southwest Atlanta Christian's Amy Griffin (21) during the state tournament last year in Macon.


At least one team from Gwinnett has won a state title every year since 2000, with multiple winners most seasons.

2000: Berkmar boys

2001: Berkmar boys, Collins Hill girls, Central girls, GAC girls

2002: Collins Hill girls, GAC girls, Wesleyan girls

2003: Parkview girls

2004: South boys, Wesleyan girls

2005: Collins Hill girls, Wesleyan girls

2006: Norcross boys, Collins Hill girls, Wesleyan girls

2007: Norcross boys, Collins Hill girls, GAC girls

2008: Norcross boys, Wesleyan boys, Wesleyan girls

2009: Buford girls, Wesleyan girls

2010: GAC boys, Wesleyan boys, Norcross girls, Buford girls, Wesleyan girls

2011: Norcross boys, Norcross girls, Buford girls, Wesleyan girls

2012: Wesleyan girls

The high school football season has two weeks of the regular season to go, with the playoffs to follow. But basketball is almost here.

Practice officially begins on Monday and Central Gwinnett will play at Collins Hill in the first games on Nov. 13. With Thanksgiving earlier than usual this year, most teams in the county will be in action by either Nov. 16 or Nov. 17 -- almost a week earlier on the calendar than some seasons.

"You get used to not having a lot of time," Norcross girls coach Angie Hembree said. "But it's not really a problem for us. It's the boys team who are hit the hardest, especially if they have many football players."

It should be another season of success in Gwinnett, which boosts some of the most dominant programs in the state and some of the top girls talent in the nation in seniors Diamond DeShields (Norcross), Kaela Davis (Buford) and Lexie Brown (North Gwinnett).

Wesleyan, which won its fifth straight girls state championship last March, has a shot at history this season. The Wolves can match the Hart County girls' record of six consecutive state championships from 1989-94.

"Our goal is always to win the state championship," Wesleyan coach Jan Azar said. "But each season is different. There is enough pressure as it is. We're not thinking about what happened before or a streak."

With the move to six classes from five, the Wolves will be competing in Class AA rather than A this season, but their first title during the recent run was at that level.

Wesleyan has won nine titles in the past 11 years, four in Class AA.

Lovett is back to defend its Class AA title from last season and in the same five-team Region 6-AA with Wesleyan and Greater Atlanta Christian.

The Wesleyan girls were the only Gwinnett team to win a state title last season after the county claimed a record five -- third girls and two boys -- in 2010 and four in 2011. But Buford, now in Class AAA, played Lovett for the Class AA title, while the Norcross and North Gwinnett girls reached the semifinals.

The Buford girls had won three straight state titles and the Norcross girls had won two straight in Class AAAAA, which is now Class AAAAAA.

There will be a big change in the state tournament in addition to the expansion to six classifications and the splitting of Class A into public and private schools. All tourney games will be played in high schools gyms until the semifinals and the championships will be March 7-9 in Macon.

The top two classes were forced out of the Arena at Gwinnett Center because of a schedule conflict caused in part by the SEC Women's Tournament.

Traveling to Macon is nothing new for schools like Buford, GAC and Wesleyan. But Gwinnett's schools in the top classification are used to being able to stay home if they were fortunate enough to advance in the tournament.

Both the Norcross boys and girls won state titles in 2011 and Gwinnett teams pulled off impressive streaks at the Arena earlier in the past decade. The Collins Hill girls, with Maya Moore, won three straight titles from 2005 through 2007 and the Norcross boys won three in row from 2006 through 2008.

All told, Gwinnett teams have won 31 state titles since 2000 and are hoping for more this season.

That's why the start of practice brings so much anticipation even when football is still going strong.

"Everyone is excited to get started," said North Gwinnett boys coach Zach Smith, who took the Bulldogs to the state quarterfinals last season.

High school basketball practice starts on Monday and teams don't have much preparation time before hitting the court for keeps. Here are some dates to remember.

Nov. 13: First games, Central at Collins Hill

Nov. 14: Norcross girls vs. McEachern in Lady Blue Tip-Off

Nov. 15: Parkview Tip-Off openers

Nov. 17: Coaches vs. Cancer at Berkmar and start of Jared Cook Tip-Off at North

Dec. 1: Nike Explosion at Wheeler

Dec. 15: GAC showcase

Dec. 27-29: Deep South Classic at Brookwood and Peach State Invitational at Holy Innocents'

Jan. 26: Hilton Invitational at Norcross

Feb. 11-16: Region tournaments

Feb. 19-20: Start of state tourney

March 7-9: State championships in Macon


Fatlarry 2 years, 11 months ago

Central Gwinnett girls won AAAA state in 2001.......


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