By David Purdum / For the AJC
With 30 seconds left and his team in command, a fired-up Berkmar coach Greg Phillips turned to the Patriots fans behind the bench and implored them to, “Get up!”
This win meant something, and it came against the team that ended the Patriots’ season last year.
C.J. Foster had a game-high 22 points, lifting unheralded Berkmar to a 56-48 upset of host Alpharetta in a second round AAAAAA state tournament game Saturday.
The Patriots (18-12) are in the quarterfinals for the second straight season and will face the Norcross-Archer winner on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Foster scored on an array of drives to the basket, which also produced plenty of trips to the foul line.
Berkmar out-scored the Raiders 20-6 from the free-throw line.
But both coaches agreed – this win was about defense.
“Alpharetta’s a heck of a team,” said Phillips, “and to hold them to 48 points, I just can’t say enough about my guys.”
Alpharetta coach Frederick Hurt said his team didn’t play its best game, but said Berkmar was the reason why.
“What’d we score? Six in second quarter, and eight in the third?” asked Hurt after the game. “That’s not like us. Berkmar played some very good defense.”
The Patriots’ man-to-man defense was physical, quick and well-positioned. There were very few open looks for Alpharetta. Raiders leading scorer Ty Toney had just five points through three quarters. By the time he got going, it was too late.
Alpharetta went nearly six minutes in the third quarter without scoring, allowing Berkmar to seize control and causing Hurt to discard his tie in frustration.
“We couldn’t get in any rhythm,” said Hurt. “Even when got out in transition, we fumbled it away. Credit Berkmar.”
The Patriots burned close to two minutes off the clock on one third-quarter possession, and when Jonathan Sanks swished a jumper at the end of another long possession, Berkmar was up 10 heading into the fourth quarter.
Sanks finished with 15.
Malcolm Hannah opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, and the Patriots maintained a three-possession lead throughout the final period.
Tony hit a couple of contested 3-pointers late in the fourth and finished with 15 to lead Alpharetta. Carlos Burse added 13, and Bjorn Walker had 11 for the Raiders (20-10).
Alpharetta eliminated Berkmar last season in the Elite 8. Foster said that made the win even sweeter, and his coach agreed.
“Last year was tough, this season was tough,” said Phillips. “That’s why I’m so happy for the seniors.”
Berkmar – Foster 22, Sanks 15, Hannan 8, Tim Rowe 7, Sanders 2, Bradley Holmes 1, Kip Patton 1. Alpharetta – Tony 15, Burse 13, Bjorn Walker 11, Bryan Roberts 3, Jarrell Hollman 2, Grant Davis 2, Connor Ramsey 2.
Halftime: Berkmar 22, Alpharetta 20