Six of the eight boys and girls semifinal basketball teams playing Friday and Saturday at the Buford Arena have not won state championships in more than 20 years.
Three girls teams – Campbell, Archer and Harrison – have never won state titles. Pebblebrook’s boys have never won. Newton’s boys last won in 1964. Berkmar’s boys last won in 2001.
The only teams that have more recent championships are Norcross’ boys and girls, which swept the titles in 2013, their last state crowns.
Speaking of Norcross, the GHSA reversed course Thursday morning and announced it would not allow the Blue Devils’ teams to play back-to-back Saturday, instead having the girls play Friday and the boys Saturday at the Buford Arena, where all four semifinals will be played.
In essence, the GHSA reverted to its original bracket. The GHSA earlier this week changed the bracket to accommodate Norcross fans, making both Norcross games on the same day (Saturday) so they didn’t have to make two trips and pay twice.
But other teams, particularly Berkmar’s boys, complained, saying many of their fans already had bought tickets for Friday based on the original bracket. The GHSA found the complaints persuasive and issued this message Thursday morning from basketball coordinator Ernie Yarbrough.
“We will have the posted brackets revised to reflect this [change] and apologize for the inconvenience this creates for Norcross with their girls team playing Friday. But, after a lengthy discussion this morning this is the direction we will move forward with.”
The official schedule is this:
6 p.m. – Campbell vs. No. 4 Norcross (girls)
8 p.m. – No. 1 Pebblebrook vs. No. 2 Berkmar (boys)
6 p.m. – No. 6 Harrison vs. No. 7 Archer (girls)
8 p.m. – No. 4 Newton vs. No. 7 Norcross (boys)
Though none of those teams has won a championship in a while, all are frequently knocking on the door.
Campbell’s girls are the only unranked team among the eight, but they’ve been a strong program for years under Randy McClure, who became the team’s head coach in 1990. Campbell beat No. 5 Cherokee 61-52 in the quarterfinals this week.
Campbell will face Norcross, which defeated No. 1 Brookwood 77-60 at Brookwood. Norcross got huge games from Jania Akins (28 points) and Zaria Hurston (23 points, 13 rebounds) in the upset. Norcross won state titles in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and was runner-up in 2017 and 2018.
Harrison beat No. 3 Grayson 57-49, while Archer beat Pebblebrook 74-42. Harrison was the runner-up in Class 6A in 2017 and 2018. Archer was a semifinalist in 2015 and 2017 and runner-up in 2014.
On the boys’ side, No. 1 Pebblebrook is perhaps the team to beat after defeating defending champion Milton 65-59 this week. Pebblebrook had lost to Milton in the 2021 semifinals and was runner-up in 2015 and 2016.
Pebblebrook will play 2020 runner-up Berkmar, which beat No. 6 Grayson 62-57 on the road this week.
Newton, a semifinalist in 2018 and 2016, beat Archer 67-57 to reach the final four. Norcross beat No. 5 North Gwinnett 58-55 on the road. Norcross was the runner-up in 2017 and 2018. The Blue Devils’ title in 2013 was their fifth.