Staff Photo by: Brendan Sullivan Berkmar's CJ Foster (5) drives to the basket against Marietta's Jonathan Fowler (11) during the second round of boys high school class AAAAA playoffs at Berkmar High School on Wednesday. Berkmar defeated Marietta 66-52.
LILBURN -- Marietta's fans came in with a championship belt as if they had already won the state title, even though it was only the second round of the state basketball playoffs.
However, it was Berkmar who walked away from Wednesday's second-round game against Marietta clinging to a chance at a championship after holding off a late Blue Devils rally to win, 66-52.
"I told the guys to find a way," said Berkmar head coach Greg Phillips. "Marietta is a really good team, but our guys pulled it out."
After a 6-0 run to start the game, Berkmar (23-7) controlled on both sides of the floor, using their height and athleticism to their advantage. Tyler Rogers scored six of his team's 10 points in the quarter to keep things close before the Patriots took over beginning in the second.
With the score tied at 14, the Patriots went on an 8-0 run that included an alley-oop from Yonel Brown to Brandon Thompson.
By halftime, Berkmar had a 24-17 lead, but Phillips wasn't satisfied.
"I told them they weren't playing Berkmar basketball," he said. "We had to get back to the way we wanted to play the game."
And they did.
A.D. Rogers had a dunk off a Brown steal, and Tyler Rogers grabbed a long rebound and put a shot back up, giving Berkmar a 39-24 lead with 3:46 to go in the third quarter.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Patriots built a 53-34 lead after Thompson had another dunk, this time on a give-and-go off an inbounds play.
However, that's when Marietta started getting serious.
A 9-0 run brought the score to 53-43, before Tim Rowe had a dunk to take the lead back out to 12.
With less than two minutes to go, Marietta closed the score to 57-50, but that would be as close as they got as Berkmar's defense hunkered down late to secure the win.
"It's our tradition," Tyler Rogers said. "We wanted to win our last time on this court."
Rowe finished the game with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Tyler Rogers had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Thompson added 14 points as well.
Marietta (22-7) was led by Dansby Swanson with 17 points and Jaylen Hill with 16.