LILBURN — With the Region 8-AAAAA season less than a week old, the Berkmar boys couldn't afford another home loss.
"In a region as tough as ours, you have to protect your home court and hope to steal some wins on the road," Patriots coach Greg Phillips said. "You just can't lose at home."
Thanks to a nearly perfect second half, No. 7-ranked Berkmar didn't Tuesday night. South Gwinnett, ranked No. 6 in Class AAAAA, still must be wondering if an opponent can really play that well.
The Patriots, 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the region, made 20 of 22 shots to overcome a 34-28 halftime deficit and raced past the Comets 74-61.
"It was all about emotion," Phillips said. "We played with heart. It was a big game and in the first half we didn't act like we realized that."
Increased defensive intensity got defending region champion Berkmar running and the Patriots showed just how good they can be when they are on the move. The extra pass led to an easier shot and Berkmar didn't miss.
Down 40-34 early in the third quarter, the Patriots finished the period on 22-7 run to go up 56-47 and didn't let South (2-2, 1-1) get back in the game.
Yonel Brown scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, while Brandon Thompson had 11 of his 19 after intermission and Adonai Rogers scored 12 of his 18 in the second half.
South, which jumped to a quick 12-4 lead with red-hot shooting, cooled as the game went on and couldn't keep up with Berkmar's quickened pace.
Jordan Adams scored 18 points to lead South, but 10 of them came in the first quarter. Simeon Dennis had seven points in the first quarter for the Comets before cooling and finishing with 14.
Qiydar Davis was South's only really offensive threat in the second half. He scored 10 of his 16 after intermission, but fouled out in the third quarter.
South started four players at least 6-foot-3 and dominated the boards early, with Montrell Marshall getting most of his nine rebounds. But Tim Rowe, Berkmar's only realy size at 6-foot-9, returned in the second half after suffering a cut over his eye when he hit the floor and all the Patriots began crashing the boards with a vengeance.
Rowe had 10 points to give the Patriots four double-figure scorers and also showed off his passing ability from the high post. Thompson had four assists, while Rowe, Brown and C.J. Foster each handed out three as Berkmar distributed the ball expertly in the second half.
Berkmar, which lost its region opener last Friday to No. 2-ranked Shiloh, plays at Central Gwinnett on Friday. South is at Archer.
"There are so many good teams in our region, that every game is tough," Phillips said. "You have to win your home games."
South Gwinnett girls 56, Berkmar 47
The South Gwinnett girls evened their record at 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the region with a 56-47 victory over Berkmar as Yvonna Dunkley had 11 points, nine steals and six assists.
Alysia Johnson had 16 rebounds and 10 points for the Comets. Tiffany Jenkins scored 10 points, while Phinieshia Henderson had nine points and eight rebounds.
Daijah Cooke scored a game-high 23 points for Berkmar, 1-2 in the region and overall. The Patriots made the game interesting in the fourth quarter after trailing 34-16 at halftime and 41-22 at the end of three quarters.