LAWRENCEVILLE - The middle two quarters proved decisive in both ends of the South Gwinnett-Central Gwinnett basketball doubleheader Tuesday night at Central.
Central's girls used 26-point differential in the middle frames to jump out to a big lead and cruise home for a 59-48 victory in the opener.
South's boys also had a huge advantage in the middle two periods - a 22-point difference - to build a big lead.
But the Comets had to hold off a late charge by the Black Knights in the fourth quarter, and it wasn't until a free throw rimmed out with 0.6 seconds left that they were able to celebrate a 55-54 win.
"We've lost three real close games we should've won," South boys coach Emmett Rouse said. "I think those games helped us (Tuesday). We've matured a little bit, but we've still got a lot of work to do."
South (15-7, 7-5) did just about everything right after rallying from 19-11 down after the first quarter, and breaking open a 26-26 game with a 17-3 run over the final 5:10 of the third quarter to claim a 43-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The lead reached as much as 45-30 after Xavier Chargois' jumper off the glass with 7:18 left to play, but momentum began to change.
The Comets had managed to keep Central (10-13, 5-8) out of the lane with a tight zone defense much of the third quarter, led by posts Reggie Brice (six points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots) and Nick Gil (six points, seven rebounds, five blocks).
But in the fourth, Black Knights point guard Devonta White began to find lanes in the defense, which helped him score seven of his 15 points on the evening in the final frame.
Combined with numerous turnovers and missed free throws by South, it allowed Central to climb back into the game, with the Black Knights pulling to within 55-53 after Brian Williams' 3-pointer from the top of the key with 42 seconds left.
A South turnover on the next trip down the floor then gave Central a chance to tie the game, but Williams' driving layup was off the mark and Price pulled down the rebound and got the ball to Mario Vasser, who was fouled with 10.2 seconds remaining.
Vasser missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity and Dzman Colquitt grabbed the rebound, but was called for traveling when he fell to the floor.
The Black Knights got another chance when Chargois missed the front end of another 1-and-1 with 5.4 seconds left. Brice appeared to put the game away when he grabbed the offensive rebound, but inexplicably went back up for the stickback before fouling Prinz Barimah when he came down with the miss with 0:00.6 showing on the clock.
Barimah hit the first free throw to cut South's lead to 55-54, but following a timeout, his second shot hit off the iron and Vasser corralled the rebound as the clock ran out, sealing the win for the Comets.
Vasser and Adonis Harrison each scored 13 points to lead South, while Colquitt matched White's game-high total of 15 points and added a game-best 12 rebounds.
There was no such furious comeback in the girls game as Central (14-8, 9-4) applied the defensive clamps after falling behind 26-22 following Hanna Ennis' 3-pointer with 4:28 left in the first half.
From that point, South (9-11, 8-4) did not score for the next 8:55 of game time before finally breaking the drought on Toya Laing's layup with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
But by that time, the Black Knights had scored 23 straight points - six from reserve CeAira Latimore and four each from Dria David, Shawna Land and Ahna Weems - to open up a 45-28 lead and put the game away.
Seven of those baskets came from inside 15 feet, including three in transition, which Central coach Jason Adams attributed to the work his Black Knights did on the other end of the court, which helped them to a 44-33 rebounding advantage for the evening.
"It just boiled down to one thing - boxing out," Adams said. "We have to do the fundamental things. Once we did that (Tuesday) night, it helped create fast break opportunities and get us easy baskets in transition. We just picked up our intensity (in the second and third quarters)."
David led Central with 18 points and five assists, while Jasmine Scott and Land each added nine points, with Scott also chipping in a game-high 12 rebounds. Latimore had 10 points off the bench.
Laing led South with 14 points and six rebounds.