NORTH FULTON, Ga. — The holiday travels and tournaments are over for North Fulton’s Region 7-AAAAAA basketball teams. Now, the focus shifts back to region play for the second half of teams’ region schedules, with programs competing in vital games this week.
Highlighting the girls schedule is the Jan. 4 tilt between Alpharetta and Northview, a battle of the frontrunners for the region title and a rematch of last season’s region tournament championship game.
Defending champion Northview has continued its dominance this season, winning all 21 of their 7-6A games since the region realignments ahead of the 2016-17 season. But that streak will be tested against a seasoned Alpharetta team that has reeled off a 12-1 start that includes two tournament titles.
Thursday’s matchup will feature 7-6A’s top offense from Northview against Alpharetta’s region-leading defense.
Northview is averaging 62 points per game in region, led by leading scorer Ashlee Austin, who is averaging 19.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. She is followed by freshman Eden Sample and sophomore point guard Asjah Innis who all average over eight points per game.
The Titans’ offense should be challenged by Alpharetta’s defensive-minded scheme. Through seven region games, the Raiders have allowed just 27 points per game. They gave up just 10 to Chattahoochee and 15 to North Atlanta last month.
Raiders’ senior Sydnie Ward has compiled 45 blocks in Alpharetta’s first 12 games, with Jaylyn Tillerson close behind with 37. Ward and Tillerson also lead the Raiders’ offense. Ward is averaging 16 points per game while Tillerson averages eight.
The Raiders are seeing production on both sides of the court from junior guards Grace Knutsen and Kendell Phillips.
The winner will sit atop the region standings.
While Alpharetta and Northview are the frontrunners for this year’s region crown, Centennial looks to be in the fray.
The Knights beat Alpharetta 37-34 Dec. 18 and currently sit third in the region standings. Their only region loss came to Northview, 59-55, on Dec. 1.
Behind multiple returning starters, the Knights will enter Thursday’s matchup on a five-game win streak and look to jump to second in the standings with a win and an Alpharetta loss.
Centennial is led by senior guard and Florida Gulf Coast commit Shekinah Guthrie. She is averaging 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game.
Divine Guthrie and Aerial Nathan are averaging just shy of nine points per game.
The Knights will look to continue their win streak against Pope. Though the Greyhounds sit fifth in the standings, their three region wins have come against three of the bottom four teams.
Following Thursday’s matchup with Pope, the Knights will host Cambridge on Saturday.
The Bears have had a trying start to the season with a young squad. Cambridge was dominated by Pope, Northview and Alpharetta earlier this year, losing those games by a combined 169-65. However, the Bears had lopsided wins over Chattahoochee and North Atlanta before a last-second win over Dunwoody on Dec. 18.
Region leaders Cambridge and Centennial will meet Saturday, and if both win their Thursday games, Saturday’s winner will lead the region standings.
Cambridge is coming off its first-ever non-region tournament title and sits atop the standings following an undefeated (6-0) start in region play.
The Bears enter this week with the region’s highest-scoring offense and top defense. In region games, Cambridge is averaging a 13-point margin of victory in six contests.
Cambridge’s offense is led by a host of consistent double-digit scorers, including junior guards Kamar Robertson, David Kramer and Bryce Boutelle as well as senior center Kyler Ingram.
Centennial is led by senior guard Jahlen Jack and 6-foot-10 junior center Rodney Howard, who averages 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
The Knights have lived on the edge this season in region games, with three games decided by four points or less. Their only region loss, Dec. 18 against Alpharetta, was decided by four points.
Cambridge takes on Johns Creek Jan. 4, while CentennIal hosts Pope.