Four county teams, including a record-setting three on the boys side, will be vying for berths into next week’s state championships at the Macon Centreplex.
Wheeler and Hillgrove will play in an all-Cobb semifinal at 5:30 p.m., with the North Cobb and Norcross boys to follow at 8:30 p.m.
The North Cobb girls will face North Gwinnett at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to face either Norcross or Langston Hughes.
“I’m very proud of what we and the rest of the Cobb County schools have accomplished,” Wheeler coach Doug Lipscomb said. “Just like I know Gwinnett (County) is proud that they still have a couple schools still playing.
“I’m proud of the fact that everybody understands we work just as hard in Cobb like everybody else does across the state. All of our schools have good communities and good administrators that support us and enjoy helping us succeed. That’s all we can ask for.”
Cobb is the first county in state history to have three boys semifinalists in the highest classification. It’s also the first time that Cobb County has had so many as two boys semifinalists since 1986. That year, Wills beat Sprayberry for the title, and in 1964, Osborne topped South Cobb in the final.
“This is great for Cobb County,” North Cobb boys coach Terry Gorsuch said. “We have some of the best teams in the state here, and it’s an exciting opportunity for us to showcase it.”
Wheeler’s basketball tradition includes five state championships and nine finals appearances. The Region 5AAAAAA champions Wildcats (21-8) feature a young team that has grown together over the course of the season.
“Our guys have developed a good work ethic, and they’ve learned to get things done,” Lipscomb said. “They’ve bought into what we’re teaching them.”
Hillgrove (26-4), the No. 2 seed from Region 4AAAAAA, is in its first semifinal since the program launched seven years ago. The Hawks have won 13 of their last 15 games since Jan. 11, both losses coming against North Cobb.
Tonight’s game marks the first meeting between Hillgrove and Wheeler, two schools separated by less than 15 miles.
“(Hillgrove) is a well-coached team that plays good basketball, or else they wouldn’t have gotten this far,” Lipscomb said. “They play well together, and I’m sure we’ll see that (today).”
Region 4AAAAAA champion North Cobb (26-4) is in the semifinals for the first time in its history, while Region 7AAAAAA champion Norcross (25-6) has won four state titles since 2006. The Warriors returned all five starters from a team that made the quarterfinals last year, though they lost Saxon Steele to a season-ending knee injury.
“We’re not worried about Norcross’ history,” Gorsuch said. “We know they’re a good team. Offensively, they have lots of weapons, and we’ll have our hands full. But our job is to stay focused on the present and worry about North Cobb.”
The Region 4AAAAAA champion North Cobb girls are 28-3, having won 14 straight. The Lady Warriors, who are hoping to win their first state championship, are making their first semifinal appearance since 1967.
Region 7AAAAAA champion North Gwinnett (29-1) has won 11 in a row and is in the semifinals for the fourth time. The Lady Bulldogs are led by McDonald’s All-American Lexie Brown, a Maryland signee.
“I don’t think their experience at this level will be that important,” North Cobb coach Matt Williams said. “The bottom line is you have to play the game. They have two McDonald’s All-American nominees over there. Those are special kids and they play well together, but our girls are good, too. We’re not satisfied to be in the semifinals. We want to keep climbing.”