Milton 2019 7-A Basketball Playoff Preview
Milton Eagles (20-7) vs. Archer Tigers (13-14)
Saturday, February 16th | 7:00
Location: Milton High School Gym
Full 7-A bracket link can be found here
Following a 64-42 victory over West Forsyth in the region championship game last Friday, Milton will enter the GHSA 7-A playoffs as the best team from their region. Because of that, the Eagles will be facing off with the Archer Tigers, the fourth best team from their region.
Their under .500 record does not necessarily show the whole story. Archer plays in a region with three other teams that have 17 or more wins this season, including state powerhouse Grayson, who has the second most wins in 7-A basketball (24). On top of that, another team from their region, Newton, is also ranked within the top ten in the 7-A class. Thus, the moral of the story is, the Tigers have played tough competition all season long.
Archer tends to play in low-scoring games, as their regional matchups throughout the season tended to end up with scores in the 50s and 60s with a few outliers. On the season, Archer averages roughly 59 points per game.
Although they have played in high-profile games and are battle-tested, Archer is still rated as the 67th best team in the state of Georgia. The Tigers do not feature a player above 6’4, and only have a total of three players measuring in at 6”3 or above. Compare that to Milton, who has double that amount of players 6”3 or above.
Archer’s star player is junior Brent Smith. The 6’3, 200 lb forward has been starting at the varsity level since his freshman season and has been the leader for his team for two years. Smith averages more than 16 points per game and roughly 8 rebounds per game, nearly reaching a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) in every outing.
The Tigers have played multiple common opponents with Milton as well. Archer, like Milton, lost to Mill Creek by double digits but took down North Gwinnett. However, unlike Milton, the Tigers lost games to West and North Forsyth yet took down Lithonia early on in the season.
Game Prediction: Milton has appeared to have gotten stronger as the season progressed. After losing a lot of games early in the season to tough competition, Milton went 9-1 in regional play and cruised to a region championship. Still, every game in the state playoffs is difficult, and the Eagles can not afford to overlook Archer.
The Tigers are a fast, athletic team that could cause problems for Milton if they force them into some uncharacteristic turnovers and get out into the open floor. Getting easy points from fast breaks could offset their lack of height, so this game will likely come down to how well Milton’s ball handlers can manage the game. Big performances will be needed from senior Donaven Hairston, junior Evan Hurst, and freshman Bruce Thornton as they take on Archer’s speedy guards.
Expect this game to be closer than it should be due to the emotions and intensity that always seem to come with a state playoff game. However, Milton is still the better team and should pull away late in this one to secure a first round victory.
Score Prediction: Milton 68 | Archer 59
Path To The ‘Ship
The focus for Milton has to remain on their round one matchup, but it is worth taking a look ahead to see what the road to a state title would hold. With a win over Archer, the Eagles would take on the winner of the Peachtree Ridge (20-6) vs. Berkmar (19-7) matchup. The Lions (Peachtree) and Patriots (Berkmar) are two quality teams that would each challenge Milton if they were to face the Eagles. Both schools play in high-level regions, Peachtree Ridge with Discovery and Duluth and Berkmar with the likes of Norcross and Meadow Creek, meaning that both sides’ records are even more impressive.
If Milton is able to survive a second round bout (Feb. 20/21) with either of those talented teams, they will more than likely be taking on one of the best high school teams in the nation. McEachern is rated as the best team in the state of Georgia, the seventh best team in the nation, and are the overwhelming favorites to win the state playoffs.
With an undefeated record of 26-0 and multiple D-1 bound prospects, it is easy to see why the Indians are so feared. Junior Shariffe Cooper is the star of the show, as the 5-star point guard holds offers from Kentucky, Auburn, Clemson, and Alabama to name just a few schools. Power forward Jared Jones has already committed to play at Northwestern next season, while 4-star small forward Isaac Okoro has already signed to play with Auburn in 2019. A date with McEachern would be either Feb. 26 or the 27.
If Milton is able to win that game, the Final Four would await on March 2, where they would likely take on either Grayson, Lowndes, Roswell, Westlake or Norcross.