Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
GAC’s Malcolm Brogdon (22) goes up past East Hall’s Chris Orr (52) on Friday.
DALTON — With defense of its Class AA state title in serious jeopardy in Friday night’s quarterfinal against East Hall, Greater Atlanta Christian turned to its leader.
And senior wing Malcolm Brogdon didn’t disappoint.
The 6-foot-4 Virginia signee helped the Spartans rally from a double-digit deficit in the first half and scored 25 of his game-high 33 points in the second to help the Spartans pull away for a 65-52 win Friday night at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center.
“I picked it up in the second half,” said Brogdon, who also added 18 rebounds and four steals as top-ranked GAC (26-5), moved on to the Final Four for the third straight year, where they will take on either Thomasville or Swainsboro next week at the Macon Centreplex.
Added GAC coach Eddie Martin, “It was a big-time struggle. In the first quarter, they got after us. They were getting to every loose ball. But in the second half, I thought our defense was unreal.”
The Spartans couldn’t have gotten off to much worse of a start as East Hall (25-6), which came into the game tied for the No. 3 state rankings with South Atlanta, seized the initiative, especially after both Brogdon and A.J. Davis were saddled with two fouls in the first quarter.
The Vikings then used the strength of 6-6 Sterling Bailey and 6-5 Chris Orr in the low post, plus the perimeter shooting of Joshua Hampton to build a 19-9 lead after the first quarter.
The lead grew to as much as 26-15 after Brian Edwards’ baseline drive and reverse layup with 3:41 left in the first half.
But despite the foul trouble, both Brogdon and Davis began to establish themselves and helped bring GAC back into the game.
“Coach gave me a chance to stay on the court, even though I was struggling,” Brogdon said. “And I was able to get into my rhythm.”
Davis pulled down most of his six first-half rebounds in the final three minutes of the half.
Meanwhile, Brogdon scored all six points in a 6-1 GAC run over the final 3:02, the last a pullup jumper from the right wing with 59 seconds left to bring the Spartans to within 27-21 heading into intermission.
“I never thought about taking him out,” Martin said. “He’s a senior, and he knows what to do. I didn’t think about (taking him out) at all. Heck no.”
Brogdon then added two more baskets in the opening 1:07 of the second half, and Cole Hobbs hit a 3-pointer with 4:59 left in the third quarter to give GAC its first lead of the game at 28-27.
But it was only the beginning for Brogdon, who scored five more points in the period, part of an 18-6 advantage that helped GAC build as much as a nine-point lead before taking a 39-33 edge into the fourth quarter.
Still, East Hall wouldn’t quit.
Brogdon’s numerical counterpart, Joshua Hampton, tried to keep up, hitting the last of his five 3-pointers on the night and adding two more baskets during a 9-2 run that pulled the Vikings as close as 44-42 with 4:34 left.
East Hall would pull to within two once again when Davis was whistled for his fifth foul — ruled an intentional foul — which ignited a 7-3 run that cut the GAC lead to 53-51 following a free throw by Dre Perry with 1:58 left.
But from there, Brogdon managed to find the ball, and the foul line, hitting 9 of 10 free throws in the final 1:54, while Paul Dawson also added three crucial free throws to help the Spartans pull away.
Davis had a strong night before fouling out, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Dawson chipped in 10 points and three assists.
Hampton led East Hall with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Perry had nine points and six assists and Bailey added nine points and eight rebounds.
“Every year we work harder and harder, and Coach Martin has pushed us even more this season,” Brogdon said. “We don’t have all the talent we had last year, but we still have a very good team.”
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