No. 1-ranked Greenforest used its superior size to post a big lead and then overcame some horrendous free-throw shooting to hang on for a 60-55 win over No. 9 Athens Christian in the Class A – Private boys semfinal at Kennesaw State.
The Eagles (26-4) got 12 points, 17 rebounds and nine blocked shots from 6-foot-10 senior Tosin Meniti, a UAB signee, and was dominant on the inside. Faisal Abdul-Amlik added 11 points and 11 rebounds for Greenforest, which plays St. Francis for the state championship on Saturday at the Macon Coliseum.
“We felt like nobody could control him if we got the ball inside to him,” said Greenforest coach David Jones.
The plan worked well until the end of the fourth quarter when Greenforest was trying to hold onto a 16-point lead. Athens Christian, led by William “Turtle” Jackson, who scored 23 points and had seven rebounds, led an 11-0 run that cut the lead to 56-51.
Athens Christian was forced to foul to get the ball back and the strategy worked. Greenforest missed eight straight free throws in the final 1:40, until Abdul-Amlik made two to put the game out of reach.
“The thing is, this is the best free throw shooting team I’ve had in years,” said Jones. “I think there were nerves.”
Greenforest established its height advantage to run off to a 14-11 first-quarter lead, with Mehinti getting six points and six rebounds in the period. Athens hit only 5 of 10 free throws in the quarter.
Athens got within a point when Marcus Mattox hit a 3-pointer to make it 17-16, but Greenforest went on a 7-1 run to re-establish control. Athens closed to 29-25 at halftime when Will Jackson made a short jumper at the buzzer.
“We were going to try to get them in foul trouble, but they ended up getting us in foul trouble,” Jones said.
Greenforest opened the third period with a 14-4 run that stretched the lead to 43-29. The Eagles had a 56-40 lead with about four minutes left when Jackson led a spirited comeback, as Athens Christian went on an 11-0 run to trim the lead to five points.
The game started on an odd note. Greenforest showed up wearing the wrong set of uniforms and was assessed a technical foul. Athens Christian led 1-0 before the opening tip.
Greenforest (60): Abdul-Amlik 11, Swain 9, Ravenel 7, Celestine 7, Mehinti 12, Ogwuche 12, William Turner 2.
Athens Christian (55): Evans 5, Mattox 8, Howell 8, McWhorter 8, Jackson 23, Branton 3.
Halftim: Greenforest 29-25