LILBURN - South Gwinnett head coach Emmett Rouse had to take a deep breath after Tuesday's win over Berkmar.
"It was an exciting win, but it's too close for me," Rouse said.
The Comets had to hold off a late rally by Berkmar in the final minute to take a 67-64 win in a key Region 8-AAAAA game.
The win keeps South (19-5, 13-2) tied with Meadowcreek for first place in the region heading into Friday's regular season finale. The loss leaves Berkmar (13-10, 8-7) in a battle with Brookwood and Central Gwinnett for the No. 4 spot.
South took a seven-point lead, the biggest of the game, after Adonis Harrison hit two free throws with 3:24 left in the game. Harrison led the Comets with 20 points.
Berkmar battled back with a big 3-pointer by Aamir Kelliehan to cut the lead to four. Nick Henry hit another 3 falling down as he was fouled to pull Berkmar within one with 53 seconds left in the game.
"He plays hard, he's going to give you everything," Berkmar coach Tommy McWhorter said of Henry. "The one thing about Nick is he finds a way. He finds a way to make plays."
The play looked like it was the momentum boost Berkmar needed, but a big dunk by Kevon Jenkins and Javonte Maynor's two free throws sealed the win.
"They were big," Rouse said of Maynor's free throws. "But we missed a lot before we got to that point. We've just got to keep working."
Maynor hit 6 of 12 free throws in the game, including 6 of 10 in the fourth quarter to finish with 14 points. South Gwinnett was 18 of 31 at the foul line, while Berkmar was 15 of 16.
"We've got to hit free throws down in the clutch and we've got to finish the game out," Rouse said.
South had four players score in double figures, including the 6-foot-2 junior Harrison.
"He stepped up big tonight," Rouse said. "They didn't have anybody to guard him on the inside, so we just kept playing him in the inside."
Mario Vasser had 11 points and Xavier Chargois scored 10, all in the second half.
Berkmar jumped out to a 7-1 lead to start the game, but South went on an 8-0 run to end the period and take a 13-11 lead.
Shaquille Morris came off the bench for the Patriots in the second quarter to lead Berkmar's offensive charge. Morris scored nine of his 17 points in the period and gave Berkmar a four-point lead with a minute left in the half. Olumba Obu added 10 points and Aaron Robinson had nine.
Harrison began the third quarter with a steal and coasted for an easy layup, scoring seven points in the period.
"He hurt us," McWhorter said.
Henry's lay up with 2:13 left in the third gave Berkmar a 43-42 advantage, but that's the last time the Patriots led.
"I thought for the most part we stopped playing fundamental ball," McWhorter said. "I thought we had some mental lapses. At this point in the season you either have it or you don't. And we didn't on several possessions."
Berkmar girls 62, South Gwinnett 39
No. 3-ranked Berkmar had eight players score in its Region 8-AAAAA win over South Gwinnett. The Patriots were led by Tyra Smith's 26 points and Krystal Morissette added 10 points.
South Gwinnett was led by Rachel Ludick with eight points and Octavia Daye scored seven.