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Final Four Preview: Northview vs. Harrison

The Harrison Hoyas (25-5, Region 6-AAAAAA 15-0) will be squaring off against the Northview Titans (28-3, Region 7-AAAAAA 16-0) on Saturday, March 4 at 2 p.m. at Fort Valley State.

The Hoyas entered the AAAAAA bracket as the second team from their region, landing them a spot in the top left quadrant of the bracket. Despite beating Creekview twice in the regular season in region play, Harrison fell to Creekview 54-38 in the region championship. They beat Dacula (54-34), Tucker (43-35), and Douglas County (73-63) in the first three round of the state tournament to reach the Final Four. Their last win against Douglas County was a milestone of a victory, as Douglas County was ranked as the number one team in the classification for the majority of the season (whereas Harrison was third and Northview fourth).

The Titans continued their winning ways through the region championship, handedly earning the top spot coming out of Region 7. The Titans fell in the bottom left quadrant of the bracket, where they downed South Paulding (54-36), Valdosta (74-54), and Stephenson (65-46). The Titans have won their last five games by at least 18 points and are on a sixteen game winning streak, their last loss coming in the Charlotte Invitational Christmas Tournament to T.C. Williams High School (South Carolina).

This matchup will feature an age-old battle between Northview’s size inside and Harrison’s perimeter shooting ability, the offensive strength of one team the defensive weakness of the other.

Northview needs to focus on pounding the paint throughout the game. In previous games, the Hoyas have had difficulty matching up with size, and in this game, are undersized against Maya Richards and Ashlee Austin. The Hoyas do a great job of establishing position in the paint against a drive from the exterior, but are otherwise tepid against passes into the paint. Austin should look to take advantage of the over-the-top pass into the low post for some easy layups. Additionally, Northview must win the battle on the glass; Harrison struggles to rebound against size inside, and Northview must continue that trend in order to limit the Hoyas’ offensive possessions and gain second chance opportunities of their own.

Harrison must continue to get and take open looks from the perimeter. Their offense relies on perimeter shooting. Raicheal Tringali hit six three-pointers against Douglas County, a feat that does not appear anomalous based on Harrison game film. Northview almost exclusively plays a 2-3 zone defense, in which it prides itself on protecting the paint and limiting dribble penetration. A team that averages 16.1 steals and 8.7 blocks per game won’t be able to rely on disrupting looks inside against the Hoyas, but will have to stay disciplined defensively and close out well against the ball outside. Northview characteristically concedes the long ball, but against Harrison, will have to contest the three and disrupt the shot to avoid trading threes for twos.

Against Harrison’s man defense, point guard Asjah Innis will have to be keenly aware of where she picks up her dribble and her spatial positioning on the court. While the Hoyas don’t often employ a full-court press, they have a propensity to rotate an extra defender over and trap on the sidelines and in the corners, something the Titans have had occasional problems with. To beat the man, a scheme Northview has not faced often this season, they must feature crisp and generous ball movement laterally in order to create isolation matchups in the paint and feed the ball into the posts.

Another factor that will be key in deciding the outcome of the game is the style of officiating. Northview has little depth, and cannot allow themselves to get into early foul trouble, thus forcing head coach Chris Yarbrough to take out his bigs and place a mismatched lineup on the court against Harrison’s strong guard play. Conversely, Harrison must be careful not to resort to fouling inside, getting Northview in the bonus early and allowing them to score unabated from the stripe.

The winner of this game will advance to the GHSA AAAAAA Girls Basketball Championship, to be held at the University of Georgia on Thursday, March 9. The opponent will be determined at 6 p.m. in the second semifinal game, a faceoff between Mays and Lovejoy.