In North Fulton three elite programs are still vying for a title, and each is just three wins away from hoisting a state championship trophy.
Class AAAAAA features the Alpharetta Lady Raiders, who posted easy wins over Duluth and Central Gwinnett in rounds one and two to earn their spot in the Elite Eight.
Things get much tougher for first-year head coach Michael House’s team in the quarterfinal round though, as the Raiders are paired with No. 1 ranked North Gwinnett in round three.
The Lady Bulldogs beat Alpharetta 76-50 in mid January, one of only two losses for Alpharetta to in-state teams.
“It’s been 45 days since we have last played them and we have improved tremendously, have healed together, trust one another, and became a much wiser team,” said House before the game.
“This time around I expect to see a different Lady Raider team.”
North Gwinnett is led by star point guard Lexie Brown, the No. 15 overall player in the country according to ESPN.com and a University of Maryland commit.
“Their team is possibly the most talented assembled group of players and may be the best perimeter shooting team in the state,” said House.
“We’ll have to believe, concentrate and execute [to beat them].”
Tipoff is set for 7:30 tonight at North Gwinnett. The winner advances to the Final Four to play North Cobb or Tift County at Georgia Tech on Saturday night.
St Francis’ boys and girls also advanced to the Elite Eight with wins last weekend in the Class A playoffs.
Aisha Gaddis’ girls team is riding a seven-game winning streak and can advances to the Final Four for the first time in school history with a win over Darlington — a team they beat 71-57 two weeks ago.
“These girls have worked really hard on and off the court and I think they are ready to take it to the next level,” said Gaddis, alluding to the last three seasons which each ended in the quarterfinal round. “I expect Darlington to give us a good game, but I think my girls will respond well.”
The St. Francis boys, seeded No. 2 in their tournament, will host No. 10 seed W.D. Mohammed in the Elite Eight.
“They will be tough,” said boys coach Cabral Huff. “They are a really good team with great coaching and they play tough. They just knocked out the defending state champs, so we know we have our hands full.”
W.D. Mohammed beat Whitfield Academy in round one, a team Huff’s group is very familiar with as the Wildcats took St. Francis to overtime in the 6A championship game 10 days ago — a game St. Francis won as part of their current 10-game winning streak.
The Knights beat Pace Academy 93-74 in the Sweet 16 and are in the state quarterfinals for just the second time in school history (2005).
Both St. Francis teams will play in a double-header tomorrow, with the girls’ game tipping at 6 p.m. and the boys’ game to follow.
A win for either squad will move them to the Class-A state semifinals, held Friday afternoon at Kennesaw State University.