Photo by Christine Troyke
SNELLVILLE -- Tuesday night's important Region 8-AAAAA boys game between Central Gwinnett and South Gwinnett featured a pair of teams about as evenly matched as possible.
The two squads traded the leads 13 times with nine ties in a back-and-forth game that resembled a Grand Slam tennis match.
But after each team held serve most of the night, Jordan Adams and Ayo Madamidola finally helped Central come through with the late break.
Each scored big points down the stretch to help the fourth-ranked Black Knights finally pull away for a 63-58 road victory and stay just a half-game back of Meadowcreek for the region lead.
"We knew coming in (Tuesday night) this was a big game," Central coach David Allen said after his team improved to 17-2 overall and 9-1 in region play. "We knew South would be very good at home. We didn't play our best basketball for the first three quarters, but Ayo made a big bucket and Jerry (Coleman) and Jordan made some big free throws."
In fact, the win raised Central's record to 3-2 in games decided by five points or less, which combined with a pair of seven-point overtime wins has Allen feeling good about the Black Knights' ability to finish close games.
"The more practice you get in live close games, the better you'll get at it," Allen said. "I think that will help us down the road."
Tuesday's game was close throughout, with Central's biggest lead being two brief six-point advantages, while South (14-5, 7-4) never led by more than four points.
But after trailing most of the first half, the Comets took their first lead of the game Adonis Harrison's stickback with 49 seconds left in the first half and went into intermission with a 26-24 lead.
The teams then traded the lead eight more times with five ties in the second half, but it was Adams who provided the difference for Central, scoring 18 of his game-high 25 points in the second half.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore, who also led the Black Knights with 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, said he felt like he owed it to his teammates after missing two games to a suspension last week, including a three-point loss to Meadowcreek.
"That was a little extra motivation because I felt like I let my team down when I sat out those games," Adams said. "This was an important game because we wanted to stay tied (in the loss column) in the region."
Adams helped Central get that important win with four huge free throws during a stretch of four lead changes over the final 2:29.
The first two put the Black Knights up 57-56 with 2:17 remaining.
But the biggest basket may have come from Madamidola after John Harris gave South its final lead of the night at 58-57 with his floater in the lane with 2:05 left.
Adams' attempt at an answer was off the front rim, but the 6-0 senior snuck in the lane for the offensive rebound and stickback to put Central back in front 59-58 with 1:08 left.
And the Black Knights were able to seal the win with a pair of defensive rebounds off South misses and two free throws each from Jerry Coleman with 28.1 seconds left and Adams with 10.9 seconds left.
Madamidola joined Adams in double figures with 12 points and added eight rebounds.
Javonte Maynor had a solid night for South with a team-high 20 points, while Harrison chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds, Jeff Quarterman came off the bench with 10 points and Chad Ross pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
But it wasn't enough to put the Comets over the top despite a strong effort.
"It was a great effort," South coach Scott Bracco said. "We just came up short at the end. It's a tough region. Every night is a battle."