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GAC headed to first state title game since '87

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
GAC's Paul Dawson (25) collides with Laney's Jamie West (11) as he drives to the basket on Thursday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips GAC's Paul Dawson (25) collides with Laney's Jamie West (11) as he drives to the basket on Thursday.

MACON -- Playing for a state championship isn't anything new for Eddie Martin, who made the finals each of his last four seasons as coach at Norcross.

Playing for a boys state title has been something that Greater Atlanta Christian had been waiting nearly 25 years for, however.

Thanks to hiring Martin two years ago, the Spartans have finally made it.

Top-ranked GAC (31-1) crushed Laney 81-56 for its 21st consecutive victory Thursday night at the Macon Centreplex and will play Thomasville (24-4) for the Class AA title on Saturday.

Malcolm Brogdon scored 24 points and Trent Wiedman had 23 points to go with 18 rebounds as the Spartans took charge early and coasted past Laney (29-3).

"It feels amazing," Wiedeman said of making the title game.

GAC last played for a boys state title in 1987, losing the Class A championship to Clinch County 75-67. The last of the schools' three boys championships came in 1977, when there was a Class B.

The Spartans almost made it to the title game a year ago in Martin's first year as coach, losing to eventual Class AA state champion Dublin 76-61 in the semifinals.

"It's been 364 days," Wiedeman said of that loss. "It's still pretty fresh in everyone's mind."

Four of the five starters returned from that team and GAC added Brogdon, a talented junior transfer from Fayette County.

GAC's only loss came against nationally ranked Memphis Melrose in the title game of the Arby's Classic at Bristol, Tenn., after Christmas and the Spartans' only close game against a Georgia team was a 10-point victory over Class AAAAA Centennial in December.

Elliott Long had 16 points in the victory over Laney and Julian Horton came off the bench to score 11, hitting a trio of 3-pointers.

Wiedeman had two of his four first-half dunks in the opening three minutes and GAC never trailed. The Spartans scored the last nine points of the first quarter to go up 21-7 and twice built leads of 20 points before going to intermission ahead by 42-24.

"One of the keys was to get out of the blocks fast," said Martin, who won Class AAAAA state titles his last three seasons at Norcross. "By doing that you set the tempo for the rest of the game."

Wiedeman had 17 points and seven rebounds at halftime, with Brogdon adding 13 points and five rebounds. Long had eight points in the first half and Beaux Hebert handed out all five of his assists.

"Trent played well," Martin said. "He wanted the basketball and did a good job finishing around the basket."

Rod Hall, a 6-foot-2 junior guard averaging 20 points, was Laney's only offense. He had 12 points in the first half and 22 for the game.

GAC had won its previous state tournament games by an average of 45.7 points per game, beating Temple 87-27, Lamar County 82-39 and Spencer 77-43.

"I can't see any team keeping up with them," Spencer coach Walter Jackson said of GAC after his team's quarterfinal loss.

Thomasville advanced to the title game with a 69-43 victory over Jefferson as 6-foot-7 sophomore Willie Clayton scored 23. Already considered a top college prospect, Clayton is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.

The Bulldogs have won their four state tournament games by an average of 21.5 points, with the closest game a 65-54 victory over Henry County in the quarterfinals.

Thomasville made it to a state championship game just once previously, losing to Class AA winner Dublin 96-84 in 2006.

GAC's drought went back further. But now it is a thing of the past.