NORCROSS - The Greater Atlanta Christian boys have one more Class AA state tournament game at their new Long Forum and the No. 2-ranked Spartans are determined to take advantage of it.
"A lot of us remember what that bad feeling was like in the locker room at Coosa last season," said Taylor Metzger, GAC's lone senior.
The Spartans were surprised in the second round a year ago, falling 85-82 despite Metzger's 26 points. This season GAC (26-3) will be at home, where the Spartans are unbeaten.
Eight of the home victories have come at the Long Forum, including Saturday's 78-63 victory over Crawford County in the first round of this season's state tournament.
Trent Wiedeman had 32 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Spartans overcame a stunning shooting display by Crawford County standout Dontavious Lee. The senior guard hit eight 3-pointers en route to 35 points.
The Eagles, who upset state-ranked Heard County in the Region 5-AA tournament, couldn't pull off another surprise against Region 6-AA champ GAC, which will host Chattooga in the second round on Wednesday.
Because of Lee's shooting, Crawford County (10-20) kept it close for awhile. But the Eagles, without a player over 6-foot-2, had no answer for Wiedeman. Three players fouled out trying to stop the 6-foot-7 junior.
"Playing in front of our fans in a big place like this really helps us," Wiedeman said. "Getting our next game at home, too, is a really big deal."
"I think it's a big factor," agreed Metzger, who had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. "Teams aren't used to playing in an environment like this."
The Long Forum seats nearly 3,000 for basketball and GAC students sit under one basket, making it tough for the opposing team. Against Crawford County, the students wore sweater vests in honor of GAC coach Eddie Martin, who led Norcross to three straight Class AAAAA state titles before taking over the Spartans.
"Our fans are the best," Metzger said.
The Spartans needed a boost the way Lee was shooting. He had 18 points in the third quarter alone, when Crawford County briefly cut GAC's 35-23 halftime lead down to seven points.
GAC led 55-46 after Lee's falling-down 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer before pulling away in the final period as foul trouble caught up with Crawford County.
Eagles coach Clyde Zachary won back-to-back Class AA state titles behind Kenny "Sky" Walker in 1981 and 1982. But his recent teams have had no one nearly as tall as the high-flying 6-foot-8 former Kentucky and NBA standout.
Adrian Grant, Crawford County's 6-foot-2 sophomore center, had 10 points and nine rebounds, but fouled out early in the fourth quarter. The Eagles also lost Quinton Hollis, who had 10 points as well.
Bo Hebert had eight first-half points for GAC off the bench. Paul Dawson had a good floor game with seven assists, while Elliott Long supplied eight points and seven rebounds.
GAC, which has won 18 straight games, hasn't lost since December, with two of their defeats coming in tournaments and the other at Class AAAAA tournament team Milton.
"We really like playing at home, especially in a place like the Long Forum," Metzger said. "It's great to have another home game. We don't want to get tripped up in the second round again. We have to get past it."
"We weren't ready to play last year," Wiedeman said. "We were too cocky. That won't happen again."