The rivalry between Hancock Central and Wilkinson County in boys basketball is a long, close one.
There have been plenty of thrillers between the two rural Class A programs through the years. The rivalry has grown to the point where they play home-and-home every year despite being in opposite sub-regions in GHSA Region 7-A.
On Thursday, the rivalry takes a new turn. Hancock Central and Wilkinson County meet for the first time in a GHSA Tournament championship game. They will take the floor at the Macon Coliseum at 4:45 p.m. for the Class A Public School title.
"It's going to be a packed house," longtime Wilkinson County head coach Aaron Geter said.
Neither team is a stranger to the Coliseum.
Wilkinson County has won seven championships, the first coming in 1999, and has won the Class A Public title in two of the past three seasons.
Hancock Central won the 2008 Class A title and came within a game of a Coliseum appearance last year after defeating Wilkinson County 72-71 in double-overtime in the quarterfinals.
Wilkinson County (25-6) finished tied for first in the Class A Public power ratings but was bumped down to the No. 5 seed in order to accommodate region champions. Hancock Central (24-6) finished sixth but was bumped down to the No. 7 seed.
The Warriors have enjoyed some strong defensive play through the postseason. According to Score Atlanta, Wilkinson County recorded 20 blocks in a quarterfinal win over Lincoln County before defeating No. 1 seed Treutlen 69-56 in the semifinals.
"Our size paid off in that game (against Lincoln County)," Geter said. "Hopefully our defense will show up and play well in the championship."
Hancock Central was taken to the limit by third-seeded Turner County in the semifinals. The Bulldogs prevailed 68-66 on Phillipe Scott's basket with eight seconds remaining.
The teams split their regular-season meetings. Wilkinson County won 68-55 on Dec. 4 in Irwinton, while Hancock Central claimed a 70-62 win on Jan. 9 in Sparta.
"We have three seniors in the starting lineup, and they have taken on the leadership role and have been doing really well," Hancock Central head coach Anthony Webb said. "The younger guys caught on to what we're doing, and that's been a big part of (Hancock Central's season)."
In the Class A Public girls final at 3 p.m., top-seeded and unbeaten Turner County (30-0) will take on No. 2 seed Terrell County (24-3).