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State basketball tournament returns to colleges for semis, Macon for finals

The Class AAAAAA basketball teams that advance deep into this season’s playoffs will get to play at Georgia Tech’s posh McCamish Pavilion.

Just not for the championship games.

The Georgia High School Association will follow the same plan as it did last season with all of the state finals at the Macon Centreplex. The semifinal round will be held at various colleges around the state, highlighted by the AAAAAA Final Four games at Tech.

Local coaches and players raved about the experience at Tech last season, just not so much about the aging Macon Centreplex.

“When you go to place like Georgia Tech for the Final Four, it’s magnificent,” said Norcross girls coach Angie Hembree, whose team won its third state title in four years last season in Macon. “That was so much fun. The venue was great. Then to turn around and drive to Macon to that facility. I know (the GHSA) tried everything. Even if we could have gone to Mercer’s new facility. I’m sure they tried that too.

“But a place like the Macon Coliseum doesn’t do justice to the tournament and to what the kids have accomplished.”

West Georgia (AAAAA), Fort Valley State (AAAA), Columbus State (AAA), Armstrong Atlantic (AA), Columbus State (A Private) and Georgia College and State University (A Public) also will host semifinal games. It will likely mean a long trip to the coast for Gwinnett’s AA powerhouses, Greater Atlanta Christian and Wesleyan, regular competitors in the semifinals, with Armstrong Atlantic as their host site. The semifinal games are scheduled for Feb. 28 and March 1.

The finals will follow over the course of three days, March 6-8, at the Macon Centreplex.

Those championship games, in the upper classes, had been held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center from 2002-2012, but scheduling conflicts with the Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons made the Duluth facility unavailable for high school games.

The situation left the GHSA scrambling for gyms last season, but they have a similar plan in place this season.

“Oh gosh yes, going back to Gwinnett would be great,” Hembree said. “Kennesaw State would be great. I’d be fine with Mercer. Their facility is brand new. I just think the facility should match the level of our event.”

The championship games in Macon are March 6 (Class AAAA, A Public), March 7 (Class AAAAA, AA and Wheelchair) and March 8 (Class AAAAAA, AAA and A Private).

STATE BASKETBALL

Semifinal sites, Feb. 28-March 1

Class AAAAAA: Georgia Tech

Class AAAAA: West Georgia

Class AAAA: Fort Valley State

Class AAA: Columbus State

Class AA: Armstrong Atlantic

Class A Private: Columbus State

Class A Public: Georgia College

State championship games

March 6

3 p.m. — Class A Public Girls

4:45 p.m. — Class A Public Boys

7 p.m. — Class AAAA Girls

8:45 p.m. — Class AAAA Boys

March 7

Noon — Wheelchair

3 p.m. — Class AA Girls

4:45 p.m. — Class AA Boys

7 p.m. — Class AAAAA Girls

8:45 p.m. — Class AAAAA Boys

March 8

11 a.m. — Class A Private Girls

12:45 p.m. — Class A Private Boys

3 p.m. — Class AAA Girls

4:45 p.m. — Class AAA Boys

7 p.m. — Class AAAAAA Girls

8:45 p.m. — Class AAAAAA Boys