Just how good was prep basketball in the northeast Georgia area in the 2016-17 campaign?
Consider that AccessWDUN follows 49 teams in our coverage area. Thirty-one of those programs, or 63 percent of all teams covered, made the playoffs last season.
Of those 31, 17 made the second round, 10 made the quarterfinals, six made the semifinals, three made the finals, and two -- both Buford teams in Class AAAAA -- came away with state titles. Eleven teams claimed region titles -- five for the boys and six for the girls -- out of a possible 18 area total titles up for grabs.
Not bad for a Winter’s work.
The Buford girls claimed their fifth title under coach Gene Durden and Buford boys notched their first ever state championship. The Rabun County girls advanced to their first-ever finale but fell in a tight contest to powerhouse Laney in Class AA. Meanwhile, the Flowery Branch girls and Lakeview Academy boys advanced both made their first-ever semifinals appearances, while the Lakeview Academy girls advanced to their first semifinals since 2005.
The Jefferson (AAAA) and Dawson County (AAA) girls each made the quarterfinals. The Gainesville boys -- which were ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAA most of the season, dropped a overtime heartbreaker to eventual state champion Langston Hughes in the quarterfinals.
Indeed, it took a quality foe to knock out a northeast Georgia team. Of the 17 programs that advanced to the second round, 12 lost to either the eventual state champions or the runners-up in their respective classifications. Seven of the 10 that advanced to quarterfinals lost to either the champion or runner-up.
The West Hall girls dropped a tight 50-47 decision to Columbus in Class AAAA in a ridiculous second round matchup of the top two teams in the state coming into the playoffs. The Flowery Branch girls let a late lead slip in the semifinals against Southwest DeKalb.
Is it the best-ever season for northeast Georgia as a whole? Time and a changing GHSA landscape makes it impossible to definitively lay claim to that. But it is very hard to remember a better campaign overall in the last 25 years.
What is in store for the 2017-18 campaign? We hope more of the same. Sheer numbers say it may be impossible to duplicate last season’s success. But more than a half-dozen teams are expected to once again make deep playoff runs with both Buford teams, the Flowery Branch girls, Gainesville boys, Dawson County girls, and North Forsyth girls all with experienced rosters and the ability to make serious playoff runs.