Cobb County is sending a record six basketball teams to play in this weekend’s state semifinals.
The South Cobb, McEachern, Wheeler and Kell boys will compete along with the Campbell and Kell girls.
“Cobb County basketball has been on the rise,” South Cobb boys coach Greg Moultire said. “We’ve always had good competition, but now teams are really able to shine across their classifications.”
The previous high was five semifinalists in 2015. The Wheeler boys beat Pebblebrook for the Class AAAAAA state title, Allatoona advanced to the Class AAAAA boys championship game, Whitefield Academy advanced to the Class A private-school boys semifinals and the McEachern girls won their third of five state championships.
South Cobb (28-2) will get the action started Friday when it faces Lanier (25-5) in the first Class AAAAAA semifinal at 4 p.m. at Buford City Arena.
The Region 6AAAAAA champion Eagles come in on a 10-game winning streak and have won 27 of their last 28 dating back to mid-November. This will be South Cobb’s second semifinal in the last four years, and Moultrie said the mindset is different for the team than when it last made it this far in 2017.
“I want them to relax,” Moultrie said. “I want them to understand but enjoy the moment. Last time, we really didn’t enjoy it because we were all about trying to get things done. They need to enjoy it because, at the end of the day, it’s another basketball game.”
Lanier is led by the backcourt of Andrew McConnell and Sion James, a Tulane signee.
Five more semifinal games involving Cobb County teams will take place Saturday — three in Buford and two at Fort Valley State University.
Wheeler (22-7) will take the floor in Buford when it gets a rematch with Milton (26-4) at 4 p.m., in the Class AAAAAAA semifinals.
The teams met Jan. 25, with Milton winning 64-62. The teams may be as equal as the score seemed to indicate. Both average 70 points per game and allow 60, and both have beaten similar opponents Pebblebrook and Kell.
In the second boys semifinal at 8 p.m., McEachern, led by last season’s USA Today Boys Player of the Year, Sharife Cooper, will try to keep its hopes for back-to-back state championships alive when it takes on Grayson for the second time this season.
In the first meeting Dec. 14, the Rams stifled the Indians 83-57, breaking McEachern’s 39-game winning streak.
Grayson comes into the game as the top team in Georgia and the No. 4 team in the country according to MaxPreps. The Rams are led by Mississippi State signee Deivon Smith, a national player of the year candidate who is averaging 17.7 points, 8.2 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game.
In between the boys semifinals, the Campbell girls (23-7) will try to figure out a way to slow down undefeated Collins Hill (30-0).
The Lady Eagles have allowed only 34.7 points per game and have a significant size advantage, with seven players standing 5-10 or taller, including 6-4 junior center LaCambria Shakespeare.
It will be the first semifinal for Campbell since 2011, and coach Randy McClure credited his seniors — Jaleah Alston, Jameah Alston and Sydney Johnson — for helped get it there.
In the Lady Spartans’ three previous playoff games, two were decided by six or fewer points.
“They didn’t want to lose,” McClure said. “We were down one the other night, and they went down the bench saying they were not going to lose that game. It’s all about their leadership.”
At Fort Valley, the Kell boys and girls will each get an opportunity to continue their unprecedented playoff runs into the Class AAAAA state championship. Before this season, the boys had only made it as far as the quarterfinals last year, while the girls had never made it past the second round.
“It’s kind of new territory for us,” Kell boys coach Jermaine Sellers said. “Usually, it’s football or baseball. For it to be basketball, it’s something special.”
The Kell boys (26-5) will get the first shot to earn a trip to the finals in Macon, taking on Dutchtown (26-4) at 4 p.m.
The game could prove to be a shootout as Kell is averaging a county-best 75.4 points per game, while Dutchtown is averaging 73.2 points.
Sellers said he might expect it to be where the first team to 100 points would win if it was a regular-season game, but he said it was unlikely in the playoffs.
“You have to play smart,” Sellers said. “We have to control tempo — not take some of the same risks and focus on defense and rebounding.”
The Kell girls (31-0) will try to remain undefeated when it faces off with Eagle’s Landing (21-8) at 6 p.m.
Eagle’s Landing started the season 5-6 before closing the year going 16-2, with the only in-state loss during that time coming in a 64-42 defeat against Jones County. Kell beat Jones County 64-54 to advance to the final four.