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Two-time defending AA champ GAC advances

NORCROSS -- Eddie Martin followed three straight Class AAAAA boys state championships at Norcross by taking Greater Atlanta Christian on three consecutive Class AA Final Four trips, winning the title the past two seasons.

That meant that the veteran coach had won 28 of his past 29 state tourney games going into this season, a stunning run of success that the Spartans hope to add to in the coming weeks.

One victory down, and potentially four more to go for GAC.

The No. 1-ranked Spartans (24-5) opened state tournament play on Saturday with a 64-48 victory over visiting Callaway at the Long Forum.

Robert Armstrong and Isaiah Wilkins each scored 16 points and Wilkins added 12 rebounds. Delano Spencer and Cole Hobbs gave GAC four double-figure scorers with 10 points each and Spencer had seven assists.

It was the eighth victory in a row and 17th in the past 18 games for the Region 6-AA champs, who started the season 2-3 with a rugged early schedule.

But there was bad to go along with the good, leaving Martin with plenty of teaching moments going into a second-round home game on Wednesday against Jefferson.

"The team that wins it all is going to do it with defense and we have to get better," Martin said. "We've got shot blockers, but we rely on them too much. We have to stop the penetration."

GAC hit five of its first six shots and led 10-0 before the game was four minutes old. But Callaway (12-15) cut a 12-point deficit to seven before the Spartans closed the second quarter with six straight points to go up 30-19 at intermission.

Wilkins, who had the final two baskets on tip-ins, scored 10 points and nine rebounds in the first half. Armstrong had eight points at the break, with six of them coming in the first quarter.

Tyrell Tigner kept the Cavaliers in the game with 12 first-half points, including a pair of 3-pointers. But his only points in the second half came on a third-quarter trey.

With Armstrong scoring eight points and Hobbs seven, GAC led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter and was up 50-33 going into the final quarter. The closest Callaway, the No. 4 seed from Region 5-AA, could get the rest of the way was 14 points.

Auburn football signee Ricky Parks was the only Callaway player to join Tigner in double figures, scoring 11 points.

Cam Boyd scored eight points for GAC and Colin Swinton had five assists to go with four points. The Spartans hit five 3-pointers, had 18 assists and four players had at least five rebounds. But they also made just 2 of 8 free throws and had trouble handling the ball at times.

"We hadn't played in a week and it showed," Martin said.

"But it's a win and a chance to keep playing. We'll take it."