As any program coming off a state championship would, the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans entered the 2013-14 season with high expectations. To date, they’ve fulfilled them as best as possible. They’re 15 games into the season and without a loss, and by far their most impressive wins came in Bristol, Tenn. over the Christmas holidays, where they went 4-0 in the 31st Annual Arby’s Classic.
The prestigious tournament featured 18 teams from five states and three countries, including the Bahamas and Germany – where the Classic’s defending state champion, Urspring hails from. GAC defeated the Bahamas team, Tabernacle Baptist, in the opening round 58-48, then Hamilton (Tenn.), 68-59. The Spartans’ stiffest challenge came in the semifinals against Oak Ridge (Tenn.) as they squeaked out a 46-42 victory before closing the tournament with a 63-56 win over Milton in the all-metro-Atlanta final.
“We really enjoyed the atmosphere,” Spartans coach Eddie Martin said. “It was unbelievable. It was a packed house because the community really supports it and the competition is unbelievable. It’s a great situation to play in front of that kind of crowd.”
Martin estimates the Viking Hall Civic Center – which hosted the tournament – seats around 5,000 people and said all evening games including the championship packed the rafters. Couple that crowd with the level of competition and there’s no better way to simulate a state playoff game, Martin said.
“No doubt. It definitely helps down the road because you normally don’t play that many games that quickly. Even in the playoffs, you get more time off. So I think playing four games in six days helps you not only physically, but it also gives you a mental toughness. We didn’t have two or three days to prepare.”
Martin also acknowledged that although some of the high level of competition was found from other states and internationally, the fact GAC played Milton in the finals demonstrates that the best competition is still in the Spartans’ own back yard.
“Personally, I don’t know if there’s a better area,” Martin said. “I know other areas will disagree, but look at schools int he metro-Atlanta area. Year in and year out, there are great teams and great coaching. The fact that there were 18 teams at this tournament and we advanced to play another area school speaks very highly of the the level of play in Georgia and in particularly, in the metro.”
GAC didn’t let up after the tournament, either. Four days later, the Spartans defeated St. Francis 65-55 to improve to 15-0. Dating back to last season’s title run, the Spartans are now on a 33-game win streak.
The Spartans’ Region 6-AA opener is scheduled for Jan. 7 at home against Hapeville Charter.
Send Adam Krohn an email at AdamKrohnAJC@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter.