Macon – The Greater Atlanta Christian boys had been in a few battles like this. They had already endured one of the most ambitious schedules in the state. So when Bleckley County erased a big lead, made a run and tied the game late in the third quarter, the Spartans never blinked. The result was a 69-52 win in the Class AA championship game.
Bleckley tied the game 40-40, much to the delight of the partisan, purple-clad fans from nearby Cochran that flooded the Macon Coliseum. GAC just kept grinding, kept scoring and kept denying and wound up outscoring the Royals 29-12 the rest of the way.
“We weren’t going to be denied,” said GAC guard Collin Swinton, one of only two seniors on the roster. “We had worked too hard and been through too much.”
It is the third championship in four seasons for No. 1-ranked GAC, which has been motivated since its untimely exit in the second round a year ago. The Spartans (29-3) have now won six championships. No. 9 Bleckley County (28-4) was making its first trip to the championship game.
GAC’s depth was simply too much for Bleckley. The Spartans had five players score in double figures: Troy Morrison with 17, Cam Boyd with 13, Isaiah Wilkins with 12, Justin Lewis with 11 and Swinton with 10. Wilkins had 12 rebounds and four assists and Morrison added eight assists.
“This is a very unselfish team,” said GAC coach Eddie Martin. “They really play for each other.”
Bleckley County was led by Rydealous Taylor with 20 points and seven rebounds and Demario Beck with 14 points and nine rebounds. Taylor made five of his team’s eight 3-pointers.
The first quarter belonged to GAC from the opening tip. Boyd stroked a 3-pointer to start the scoring and Wilkins scored six of the next eight points as the Spartans started with an 11-2 lead. Bleckley missed seven of its first eight shots and was denied any rhythm by the GAC defense, until the Royals made a couple of short jumpers late to cut GAC’s lead to 14-8 after one period.
GAC grew its lead to 21-11 before Bleckley found its stride. The Royals went on a 11-1 run and tied it on Beck’s 3-pointer with 59 seconds left in the half. GAC took a 24-22 lead into the break when Swinton hit a pair of free throws.
Bleckley came out firing in the third quarter, making five of its first seven shots. The Royals surged ahd 30-26 on a pair of 3-pointers by Taylor. The senior went on to make four treys in the period. But it wasn’t enough to keep GAC at bay. Led by Lewis, who scored three baskets in the final three minutes, the Spartans took a 44-40 lead into the fourth period.
GAC kept its momentum going by outscoring Bleckley 12-2 to open the fourth quarter. By the time the Spartans opened a double-digit lead at 52-42 with 5:43, they were content to be more patient on offense. It resulted in a basket by Swinton following a series of nice passes and a pair of free throws from Morrison after he was hacked under the basket.
Bleckley County (52): D’Andre Pitts 2, Rydealous Taylor 20, Demario Beck 14, Savon Walters 4, Jaderrick Farrow 9, Trinity Gilbert 1, Shunkendrick Brown 2.
GAC (69): Justin Lewis 11, Troy Morrison 17, Collin Swinton 10, Cam Boyd 13, Isaiah Wilkins 12, Garrett Covington 2, Tyler Hamilton 2, Charles Botchway 2
Halftime: GAC 24-22