A little size disadvantage didn’t slow North Gwinnett on Tuesday.
The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs were relentless in attacking the boards. They followed their own shots. They attacked the glass whenever No. 4-ranked Peachtree Ridge shot. They wound up getting the same number of rebounds, 31, as their taller opponents and came away with a 54-49 home win over the Region 7-AAAAAA leaders.
North Gwinnett coach Zach Smith called it “gang rebounding.” Owen Lewis (nine), Ahmad Caver (six), Eric Hamilton (five) and Malik Carter (five) all had at least five rebounds.
“We have to fight hard on the glass when we play a team like this,” Smith said. “We came with the mentality that we’re going to fight and play hard and we did just that.”
North Gwinnett appeared to be on the verge of losing its second straight. The Bulldogs fell behind by six points early in the final quarter, before surging ahead on three consecutive 3-pointers – two by Howard and one by Caver.
“Coach says if we’re open, let it go,” said Howard, who scored a team-leading 19 points.
“Those 3-pointers definitely changed the momentum,” said Smith, his team now 17-5, 11-3 in Region 7-AAAAAA.
Peachtree Ridge had a chance to tie the game with 43.2 seconds left after North lost the ball out of bounds. But Jordan Capps missed a 3-pointer and Caver quickly got the ball to Carter, who slammed it to essentially end the threat. Carter scored North Gwinnett’s last six points.
Peachtree Ridge was without its coach. Veteran Keith Arrington has been fighting the flu and was unable to coach. Assistant Matt Stratemeyer, a former Peachtree Ridge player, found out about 3:30 p.m. that he would be calling the plays.
“I thought they fought hard,” Stratemeyer said of his team “They competed the entire game. We didn’t always executive but we competed.”
Peachtree Ridge (16-7, 11-2) got a solid game from Amir Warnock, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Capps scored 12 points and Aaron Augustin had six points and seven assists.
With about 10 days left in the regular season, Peachtree Ridge has a half-game lead over Norcross and North Gwinnett in the battle for tournament seeding.
“We came off a hard-fought game against Norcross and we’re trying to build our confidence back up,” Howard said. “I think we did that.”
North Gwinnett won the girls contest 54-35.
Peachtree Ridge (49) — Johnson 3, Banks 3, Barnes 2, Augstin 6, Capps 12, Warnock 18, Efezohkue 2, McBride 3.
North Gwinnett (54) – Lewis 6, Caver 14, Carter 8, Howard 19, Calhoun 5, Hamilton 2.
Halftime: Peachtree Ridge 25-22