State Basketball Final Previews, Archer and Buford

Archer High School

Sports Gwinnett Basketball Championships Preview

The high school basketball season will conclude in Macon, GA this weekend with Gwinnett County having representation in class AAA girls and boys with Buford and class AAAAAA girls with Archer playing for a championship on Saturday. The theme of the week is “rest” –  having a week off before the championship games.  The coaches are glad to have this time to get their players rested and to have prep time for their opponents after playing so many games in such a short span to end the regular season and then going directly into the region and state tournaments.

Here’s a preview of those games being held at the Macon Coliseum on Saturday March 8th.

Girls 6A Championship: 7:00 pm

Archer (29-3) vs McEachern (27-2): This championship game features two teams with a combined 48-1 record against Georgia teams this season. Both teams posted winning records against out-of-state competition this season as Archer was 3-2 and McEachern is 5-2. The Archer Lady Tigers defeated West Forsyth, Roswell, North Forsyth and Lowndes in the state tournament to earn their first trip to the championship game for the first time in the schools five-year history.

The Region 8-6A champions average 66 points while allowing 46.5 points in the state tournament. Madison Newby is Archer’s leading scorer in the state tournament averaging 17.7 points while her younger sister Autumn is averaging a double-double with 16.7 points and 11 rebounds. Amber Skidgel (12.7 points in the state tournament), Kalya Rogers, Alesha Mann along with Cii Cii Marsielle and Linsey Marchese have all played vital roles in the Tigers success this season.

“We’re playing great team basketball, distributing the ball and our defense is really putting pressure on other teams,” Archer head coach Ryan Lesniak said about their recent play. “They’ve bought into the philosophy that began back in June.”

Archer enters their first appearance in the championship game on a nine-game winning streak looking to halt McEachern’s 24-game winning streak. The Lady Indians are seeking their second state championship in three seasons and are nationally ranked in the Top 20 by both USA Today and Max Preps. McEachern defeated Rockdale County, Brunswick, Douglas County and South Forysth in the state tournament to advance to the championship game.

Girls 3A Championship: 3:00 pm

Buford (30-2) vs St. Pius X Catholic (29-3): The Buford Lady Wolves are seeking their first state title since 2011.  Buford has won their last 12 games and defeated Ringgold, Decatur, Woodward Academy and Pike County to advance to the championship game. In the state tournament the Lady Wolves are averaging 57.5 points.

“Our team has come a long way, not many people expected us to be here,” Buford head coach Gene Durden said. “We’re playing good defense in the full court and half court and I’m pleased with our ability to overcome obstacles this season. We’re excited to be back in the (championship) game.”

Camille Anderson (14ppg) and Bree Horrocks (12ppg) have led the Lady Wolves all season and throughout their recent state tournament run.  Chandler Hall, Corey Staples and Taylor Ozment have played important roles as well.

“(Camille) is just an all-around good player and can score in multiple ways. Bree (Horrocks) is our post player that clogs everything up for us,” Durden said about his two leading scorers. Horrocks leads Buford in rebound as the Wolves have dominated many of their opponents on the glass this season.

Buford will be looking to erase the memory of their 56-43 defeat to St. Pius in the quarterfinals last season.

St. Pius enters the contest on a 19-game winning streak and has not lost to a class 3A opponent all season. The Golden Lions average 56.3 points in the state tournament with victories over North Oconee, East Hall, Morgan County and Beach to advance to the championship game.

Boys 3A Championship: 4:45 pm

Buford (27-5) vs Morgan County (25-5): This championship game will feature “familiar faces” as the Wolves and Bulldogs will be meeting for the third time this season.  They split two regular season meetings with each winning on their home floor. Buford returns to the championship game for the first time since 2011 when they finished as the runner-up to GAC.

Buford defeated North Murray, Blessed Trinity, Cartersville and Callaway in the state tournament to advance to the championship game. The Wolves average 71.2 points during the tournament and have been led all season by D’Marcus Simonds and Rakim Lubin. Simonds is averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists this season while Lubin is stuffing the box score nightly averaging 20 points 13 rebounds and 4 blocks.  Matt McMorris, Justin Edwards and Taylor Mills have also stepped up for the Wolves this season.

“We’ve seen them this season and they are well-coached and have good players,” Buford head coach Allen Whitehart said. “We’ve just have to come out and play.”

Morgan County is looking to win their first state championship in school history and erase the memory of being upset in the second round last season. The Bulldogs defeated Woodward Academy, East Hall, Cedar Grove and defending champion Johnson-Savannah to advance to the championship game. They enter the contest on a 7-game winning streak with this last lost coming at the hands of the Wolves in early February.

Joel Hillsman
Joel is a sports media freelancer covering high school and pro sports since 2009. He is play-by-play announcer and show host for high school football and basketball on NFHS Network covering the southeast and produces game highlights for NBA TV and Turner Sports.

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