There is no question that the Dacula boys basketball team is one of Gwinnett County's pleasant surprises this season.
Soon, we should find out if the Falcons are a legitimate contender for the Region 8-AAAAAA title.
Dacula, fresh off a tournament title in Florida, hosts first-place Archer on Friday and then is at second-place Shiloh on Saturday.
That's a grueling stretch, but one that gives the Falcons a chance to show just how far they have come.
Dacula is 9-3 overall against a solid schedule and 3-2 in 8-AAAAAA. The region losses are by a total of three points (one in overtime) and they own an impressive victory at two-time defending region champion Berkmar.
The Falcons weren't predicted to be this good after graduating their two top players from a 15-14 team.
Dacula, though, has progressed quickly under new coach Russ Triaga and showed its potential with an overtime victory in November over Region 7-AAAAAA contender Collins Hill.
The highlight for the Falcons so far was the title at the Sunshine Classic in Daytona Beach last weekend.
The Falcons defeated Clay County (Ky.) 62-57 in the championship game Saturday as tournament MVP Jaylen Williams scored 28 points and fellow all-tourney pick Brandon Goodson scored 17.
Dacula had advanced when Cameron Lewis hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left for a 58-57 victory over Stephenson in the semifinals. Goodson had 21 points in that game and Williams added 14.
Williams and Goodson, both seniors, are Dacula's only returning starters. But the Falcons got a boost with the addition of Lewis, a transfer from Brookwood, and freshman Kevon Tucker.
Is Archer county's best?
Archer bounced back from a loss to Valdosta to edge Marist 57-55 and claim third place in the McDonald's Invitational in Tifton on Saturday.
The Tigers, 11-2 overall and 6-0 in Region 8-AAAAAA, can make a strong claim as the best Class AAAAAA team in Gwinnett after the 2012 part of this season.
Archer's only loss before Valdosta came on a last-second basket as Miller Grove -- the four-time defending Class AAAA (now AAAAA) champ -- won 72-70 at the Nike Explosion on Dec. 8.
The Tigers defeated Johnson of Savannah 77-76 in the first round at Tifton and the Atom Smashers were considered the team to beat in Class AAA this season.
Shiloh falls in overtime
Shiloh, 5-1 in Region 8-AAAAAA, slipped to 8-2 overall with an overtime loss to Morgan County late Tuesday night in the Hoops In Overdrive event at Centennial.
Tookie Brown, who scored 37 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left for the 81-79 victory. Morgan County is expected to be a state contender in Class AAA.
Shiloh led by 18 points at one point, but couldn't hold on. The game was tied at 70 after regulation play.
The Generals had originally been scheduled to play Aquinas, but the schedule for the last day of the Hoops in Overdrive was changed.
Shiloh defeated Region 2-AAAAAA contender Luella at Centennial on Saturday.
Wesleyan girls headed to Alabama
The Wesleyan girls, shooting for a fifth straight state title, will be tested as they head to the Birmingham area for games Friday and Saturday.
The Wolves (11-1) will play at Shades Valley on Friday and Hoover on Saturday. Hoover defeated Norcross 61-49 on Dec. 8.
Wesleyan lost 61-60 in overtime to Bolingbrook (Ill.) in Peach State Basketball's Holiday Invitational, but bounced back to defeat Buford 58-53 for the consolation title of the top division.
The Wolves, who won the past four Class A state titles, begin Region 6-AA play by hosting defending Class AA champ Lovett next Tuesday. Then they play at Greater Atlanta Christian (11-1) on Jan. 11.
The Spartans won two tournaments during the Christmas break, prevailing at Carrollton and Walnut Grove. Their only loss is to unbeaten Parkview of Class AAAAAA.