Eight state champions will be crowned Saturday, as the N.C. High School Athletic Association boys and girls basketball championships will be played at N.C. State's Reynolds Coliseum and North Carolina's Dean Smith Center.
Game times at both sites are: noon, 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The games at Reynolds will be played in the following order: 1A girls, 1A boys, 3A girls and 3A boys.
At the Smith Center, it's: 2A girls, 2A boys, 4A girls and 4A boys.
Whether you're heading to Chapel Hill or Raleigh on Saturday, here's what you need to know:
SORTING THE FIELD
1. By its nature, a postseason single-elimination basketball tournament is going to have some surprises, yet the adjusted MaxPreps rankings used to help seed the tournament were a pretty reliable predictor of which teams were state championship threats. Fifteen of the 16 finalists were either seeded first, second or third in their respective regions and the one that wasn't — No. 9 Greene Central — was ranked second overall among 2A teams. Greene Central plays in the same conference as the top-ranked team, Kinston, and the two tied for the conference title. Kinston beat Greene Central in the conference tournament championship to take the conference's 1-seed. The second seed from a conference cannot be seeded ahead of a top seed from another conference, so Greene Central — which later defeated No. 1 Kinston in the third round — dropped to ninth.
2. If using their overall rank, instead of East/West seed, the boys championships look like this: No. 1 Winston-Salem Prep vs. No. 8 Pamlico County in 1A; No. 2 Greene Central vs. No. 8 Forest Hills in 2A; No. 1 Cox Mill vs. No. 4 Northside (Jacksonville) in 3A; No. 2 Independence vs. No. 6 Heritage in 4A. The girls' side has two 1-versus-2 matchups out of four: No. 1 Mount Airy vs. No. 2 Pamlico County in 1A; No. 3 North Wilkes vs. No. 13 North Pitt; No. 1 Jacksonville vs. No. 4 Northern Guilford; No. 1 Southeast Raleigh vs. No. 2 Northwest Guilford. North Pitt is the only team in the final that was ranked lower than eighth, but was only behind two other teams in the east, and thus was seeded third in its bracket.
HOW YOU CAN WATCH
3. Tickets are $15, or you can purchase them online at nchsaa.org at $14. Parking is free at Reynolds Coliseum's main deck but Smith Center parking charges either a flat fee of $10 or $1.75 per hour, depending on the lot.
4. If you're at home, you can watch some of these championships on local television or stream them online for free. The Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville market will get all eight games, with 2A and 4A broadcasting on WLFL (Channel 22) and 1A and 3A on WRDC (Channel 28). The Greenville-New Bern-Jacksonville market will get the 1A girls game at noon on WYDO (Channel 14), the 3A girls game on WCTI (Channel 12) and four games — 2A girls at noon followed in order by 2A boys, 4A girls and 3A boys — on digital channel 14.2 (BOUNCE TV).
4A BOYS: HERITAGE VS. INDEPENDENCE
5. Heritage (25-4) is the sixth different Wake County team to represent the 4A East over the last six seasons, joining Broughton (2013), Apex (2014), Garner (2015), Cary (2016) and Leesville Road (2017).
6. If Heritage, led by East Carolina recruit Jayden Gardner (24.1 points, 13.9 rebounds per game) and Virginia Tech recruit Jarren McCallister (17.5 ppg), were to win its first state title, then it would be the school's first in any sport. Win or lose, the Huskies will be the 18th different WCPSS high school to either win an NCHSAA title or finish runner-up since 2011, a list that only excludes East Wake, Enloe, Rolesville and Apex Friendship.
7. Gardner is the only player in this weekend's championships to have more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career. The four-year starter currently ranks second in Wake County scoring history (2,252 points) and fourth in all-time in NCHSAA rebounding history (1,306).
8. Independence (30-1), known for its incredible football teams of the late 90s and early 00s, last won it all in 1997, when now-coach Preston Davis was a sophomore for the Patriots.
9. Heritage coach Tilden Brill III has played in some big games before. He played for legendary coach Morgan Wootten at famed DeMatha High in Washington D.C. alongside eventual N.C. State player Jordan Collins. Collins is now a Heritage assistant.
10. Heritage's only losses this season came to in-county opponent Garner before Christmas. The other two were to out-of-state teams in the John Wall Holiday Invitational. Independence hasn't lost to an NCHSAA school all season. Its only loss came to N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A champ Carmel Christian. Heritage is on an 18-game winning streak, while Independence has won 21 in a row.
4A GIRLS: SOUTHEAST RALEIGH VS. NORTHWEST GUILFORD
11. This is one of two rematches from last year's state titles. Northwest Guilford clipped Southeast Raleigh 36-34 in last year's title, and both teams bring back most of last year's roster, including game MVP Elizabeth Kitley of Northwest.
12. That two-point loss in last year's final is Southeast Raleigh's only defeat of the last two seasons. The Bulldogs are 62-1 during that span. Northwest's only two losses this year came to out-of-state teams.
13. This is Southeast's fourth appearance in the state title in the last five seasons, but the Bulldogs (30-0) haven't won the title since 1999, which was just the school's second season of competition. Southeast ran into two nationally-ranked teams from Myers Park in Charlotte in 2014 and 2015.
14. Northwest Guilford (28-2) is in its third straight title game, and the previous two have both come down to the final possession. The Vikings fell to Millbrook at the buzzer in 2016 and celebrated when Southeast Raleigh's tying shot at the horn last year fell short.
3A BOYS: NORTHSIDE (JACKSONVILLE) VS. COX MILL
15. Is this the best title game? Northside is on a 59-game win streak. Cox Mill is getting talked about being an all-time 3A team. Both are defending state champions. Northside won the 2A title last year with a 30-0 record and is 29-0 this season, while Cox Mill (28-3) won the 4A title.
16. Cox Mill features two of the best players in the state in North Carolina recruit Rechon "Leaky" Black (13.6 ppg) and super junior Wendell Moore Jr. (25.4 ppg) has more than 2,000 career points already.
17. Cox Mill hasn't lost to an NCHSAA team this season, and the only one that came to an in-state team was NCISAA power Providence Day.
3A GIRLS: JACKSONVILLE VS. NORTHERN GUILFORD
18. This isn't a state championship rematch, but it is a rematch from last year's playoffs. Northern Guilford was in the 3A East last year, and played Jacksonville for a spot in the state title, winning 42-37. This year, Northern (27-4) was in the West, allowing Jacksonville (23-3) to go one round farther.
2A BOYS: GREENE CENTRAL VS. FOREST HILLS
19. Before coach Charles Harris was hired at Greene Central four years ago, the Rams had not made the playoffs in eight seasons. In the four since, they've been to the playoffs each time. The Rams (26-6) have played in the 2A East final in back-to-back years and are now making their first appearance in the state basketball championship.
20. Like Greene Central, Forest Hills (29-2), located just outside of Wingate, has made good on falling just short of reaching the state title a year ago. The Yellow Jackets were the 2A West runner-up last year.
2A GIRLS: NORTH PITT VS. NORTH WILKES
21. Nyjanique Langley (26.9 ppg) is the player to watch. The North Pitt senior was a sophomore when she first played in the Smith Center, leading the Panthers to the 2016 state title and earning MVP honors. She's only gotten better since then. Langley had 41 in the East final victory over Kinston.
22. North Wilkes (28-3) is making its first appearance in the state final and is armed with three players with more than 1,000 career points. North Pitt is 2-for-2 in previous state title appearances, winning it all in 1972 and 2016.
1A BOYS: PAMLICO COUNTY VS. WINSTON-SALEM PREP
23. There might not be a lot going on in Bayboro or any other Pamlico County town, other than to drive to Raleigh to see if the Hurricanes can potentially pull off the championship sweep. North Surry had a chance to do it last year in 2A, but lost both title games.
24. Don't be fooled by the name: Winston-Salem Prep (26-3) is not a private school, nor is it a charter school. It's part of the Forsyth County Schools system and is housed on the campus of old historic Atkins High (the Atkins name lives on in a newer building). However, it is unique on the 1A level: it's in one of the state's largest cities and is a magnet school. Winston-Salem Prep played in five straight titles, 2012-2016. Pamlico (22-5) is the first traditional public school to represent the 1A East since East Carteret in 2015. Charter schools won the East in 2013, 2016 and 2017.
1A GIRLS: PAMLICO COUNTY VS. MOUNT AIRY
25. This one is also a rematch from last year's state title. Mount Airy, led by now-senior Jo Snow's MVP effort, won 66-40. The Granite Bears (26-2) have only lost to 4A West Forsyth this year, while Pamlico (26-1) only fell to 3A East runner-up Havelock. Mount Airy returns all five starters from a year ago.