Photo by Christine Troyke
NORCROSS -- As the No. 1 preseason choice in Class AA, GAC's boys basketball team was already somewhat of a known commodity.
However, the Spartans demonstrated they are among Georgia's elite teams on any level Saturday against Centennial in the GAC Boys Basketball Showcase at the Long Forum.
Malcolm Brogdon had a huge all-around game to lead a balanced effort as GAC held Centennial -- Class AAAAA's eighth-ranked team -- at arm's length before pulling away late for a 70-60 victory.
"That's why we play games like this," Spartans coach Eddie Martin said after his team improved to 5-0 on the young season. "I've said it about a hundred times. You need to go out and challenge yourself and challenge the kids with games like this, particularly early in the year. I think our schedule allows us to do that."
Brogdon and the Spartans were definitely up to the challenge Saturday.
The 6-foot-4 junior posted a game-high 28 points and added eight rebounds, six assists and four steals, and gave GAC a lead it would never relinquish at 16-15 with his 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:05 left in the first quarter.
That doesn't mean the win came easy for the Spartans as Centennial never went away. Senior guard Devonta' White, who started his career at Central Gwinnett before transferring two years ago, made sure of that.
The Georgia State signee helped keep the Knights in the game after GAC took as much as a 37-27 lead with 1:13 left in the first half.
His 3-pointer with 7 seconds left in the half keyed a 6-1 run that cut the Spartans lead to 38-33 heading into intermission.
GAC stretched the lead to as much as 47-39 in the third quarter, only to see Centennial make another charge with an 8-2 run over the final 3:46 of the period to pull to within 49-47 heading into the fourth quarter.
But once again, Brogdon and his teammates gathered themselves and gave themselves breathing room again.
Brogdon set up Paul Dawson and Elliott Long for transition layups on GAC's first two possessions of the final frame, and then hit two free throws to push the Spartans' lead back to 55-47 with 5:20 to play.
"Coach (Martin) mentioned in the locker room that that shows the maturity of our team," Brogdon said. "We were able to withstand their run and keep pushing forward."
Centennial made one last run, pulling to withing 64-60 on White's 3-pointer with 19 seconds left.
But freshman A.J. Davis connected on four straight free throws and Brogdon added two more to seal the win for GAC.
The Spartans also got a big game from 6-7 senior Trent Wiedeman, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots despite being hobbled with a sore ankle, while Elliott Long added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Dawson chipped in 10 points.
White led Centennial with 24 points and added six rebounds, while Adrian Rodgers added 11 points and nine boards.