By Guy Curtright
LILBURN - The Berkmar boys haven't made it to the state basketball tournament since Wesley Witherspoon was a freshman.
As far as the Patriots and their star are concerned, it's time for that absence to end.
"This team definitely has the talent to go to the state tournament and win some games," Witherspoon said. "We're more athletic and have guys who can make plays.
"We just have to keep working. It's not where we are now. It's how we finish."
Berkmar improved to 8-3 overall and 2-0 in Region 8-AAAAA with an 81-66 home victory over Brookwood on Saturday and Witherspoon was in the forefront as usual.
The versatile 6-foot-8 senior scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out five assists in a very economical game. He took just 13 shoots from the floor, making six, but was 10-for-13 from the foul line.
Once ahead by 20 points, Berkmar saw its lead shrink to nine with about five minutes remaining. But Witherspoon converted a 3-point play and the Patriots were soon back in control.
With the addition of Demarion Gordon, a transfer from South Cobb, Berkmar has more weapons offensively this season.
Gordon had 14 points against Brookwood, while Nick Henry scored 16 and Stavantae Rucker added 10.
But the Patriots still revolve around Witherspoon, one of the top unsigned seniors in the Southeast.
Because of Witherspoon's drawing power, Berkmar has made two trips to Kentucky and another to Tennessee.
The Patriots lost twice in the King of the Bluegrass Classic outside Louisville, but Witherspoon impressed fans with his all-around play.
"It was crazy," Witherspoon said. "People were yelling, 'Come to Kentucky! Come to Kentucky!'"
Witherspoon said that the Wildcats are one of his final eight choices, but he is very much still undecided.
"I'm not worrying about that now," he said. "I'm concentrating on this season."
Berkmar has a key Region 8-AAAAA game with Parkview on Tuesday. But the Patriots showed, again, against Brookwood why they are one of the favorites for the region title.
Nate Hamilton scored 23 points for Brookwood, but the Broncos (6-6 overall, 0-2 in 8-AAAAA), couldn't keep up with the Patriots.
Brookwood scored the game's first five points, but Berkmar went on a nine-point run and led 18-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The Patriots broke the game open in the second quarter, taking a 46-29 lead at halftime.
Witherspoon had 17 points in the first half, going 5-for-8 from the floor and 7-for-8 at the foul line. He scored 12 of Berkmar's 28 points in the second quarter.
Brookwood's Hamilton was just 2-for-10 from the floor in the first half, but went 11-for-13 at the foul line and had 15 points at intermission. The 6-foot senior guard finished 5-for-14 from the floor, with a pair of 3-pointers, but didn't go to the foul line in the second half.
Rucker scored all 10 of his points in the third quarter and Berkmar led 64-46 going into the final period.
Hamilton was the only double-figure scorer for Brookwood. Sean Capps and Andrew Allen each had eight points.
Berkmar girls 59, Brookwood 50
Tyra Smith scored 26 points as the Berkmar girls improved to 12-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 8-AAAAA with a 59-50 victory over visiting Brookwood.
The Patriot led by as many as 19 points early in the fourth quarter before the Broncos staged a comeback, pulling to within seven points on three occasions.
Mariah Richardson scored 12 points and Gabby Harvey 10 for Berkmar.
Katie Mallow, a freshman, had 16 points to lead Brookwood, while Courtney McLane scored 14.
The Broncos, who snapped an eight-game losing streak with a win at Central Gwinnett on Friday, are 2-10 overall and 1-1 in the region.
The game was tied at 10 before Berkmar went on an 11-2 run to start the second quarter. The Patriots led 25-19 at halftime. Mallow started the third quarter with a 3-pointer, but Berkmar then went on another big run and led 41-27 going into the fourth quarter. The Patriots' biggest lead was 48-29.