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North, Central set for finals clash at Jared Cook

SUWANEE -- Central Gwinnett got a game-high 25 points from junior guard Darius Joell as the Black Knights held on for a 64-58 win in Thursday's semifinals of the Jared Cook Holiday Classic at North Gwinnett.

With the victory, Central plays tonight at 8:10 against host North Gwinnett in the boys' championship.

North was a convincing 70-55 winner over Dacula in the second of two semifinal games behind 18 points from Chris Bolden and 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from A.J. Clements.

In the first semifinal, it looked like Central (8-2) would run away with the contest as Joell connected on six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.

Eman Westmoreland also connected once from behind the 3-point arc as Central scored all its points on 3-pointers in the opening period.

Central built 12-0 lead before Chapel Hill could find the basket and the Black Knights eventually took a 15-2 advantage in the first four minutes.

But Chapel Hill (5-4) battled back and cut the Central lead to 21-15 at the end of the first quarter, thanks primarily to Jordan Jacks' nine points.

Central maintained a comfortable lead at the half as the Black Knights led 35-28.

However, Chapel Hill made a charge in the third quarter and cut the Central lead to 42-41 on a Devon Moore 3-pointer with 3:20 remaining.

But Central regrouped and took a 48-45 lead into the final frame.

"I thought we did a good job of maintaining our poise after (Chapel Hill) made some runs at us, especially in that third quarter," said Central head coach David Allen. "They had some guys that got after us, but we were able to answer each time they got close."

The Black Knights scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter and pushed out to another double-digit lead at 55-45.

Chapel Hill had one last rally as the Panthers got it to 58-55 on Jacks' basket with 1:35 remaining.

But Central was steady down the stretch, hitting six straight free throws in the final 1:04 to salt the game away.

Shaun Jones added 13 points and five rebounds, while Brian Egejuru had 10 points, seven assists and three rebounds for Central.

Central did play without Justin Mouton and Slim Delbridge.

"We just made a decision not to play them," said Allen. "Just a coach's decision."

Jacks led Chapel Hill with a game-high 30 points, with nine of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Moore added 15 points for the Panthers.

In the nightcap, North (4-4) led wire to wire and by as many as 19 points en route to the 15-point victory.

North jumped out to a 12-2 lead and eventually led 18-10 after the opening quarter.

On the other hand, Dacula could only muster 10 points from Xavier Okoro, who was also battling foul trouble -- picking up his second foul less than three minutes into the game.

Starting guard Bryson Burlong also picked up three fouls in the first quarter to hamper the Dacula offense.

North took the lead into the half, leading by as much as 33-18, as Bolden connected on three treys en route to a 13-point first half.

But the Falcons hung around and trailed just 33-24 at intermission, thanks to Okoro's presence on the inside.

The 6-foot-2 center finished with 16 of Dacula's 24 first-half points with 10 of those coming from the free-throw line.

In the second half, North continued to use a stingy defense and an inside offensive presence that ultimately fouled Okoro out of the game with 4:44 remaining.

Okoro finished with a game-high 21 points and also pulled down 11 rebounds, but North had the answer any time Dacula (6-5) would make a move.

"I thought we did a good job of answering each time (Dacula) made a run at us," said North head coach Zachary Smith. "We did a good job defensively all night. That was important because we know what they can do offensively, especially with Okoro."

Answers came from the likes of Clements, who was productive on both ends of the floor, and Bolden, who set the tempo early and was strong late in the game.

North eventually built an 18-point lead at the end of the third quarter and cruised home from there.

North also got 12 points out of Kamaron Calhoun, who scored 10 of his points after halftime and gave the Bulldogs another offensive threat in the final 16 minutes.Kwesi Ahakah added 10 points for North.