Bolden leads fourth-quarter rally as North tops Peachtree Ridge

SUWANEE -- In Tuesday night's win at Norcross, North Gwinnett standout Chris Bolden relied on his teammates to take some pressure of him in returning to his former school.

In Friday night's Region 7-AAAAA home game against Peachtree Ridge, he paid them back in kind.

The 6-foot-2 senior scored 19 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, 11 of which came during a fourth-quarter run that rallied the Bulldogs to a come-from-behind 69-56 win, which pulled them even with idle Norcross for the region lead.

"It was a matter of pride," the Georgia Tech signee said. "We wanted to protect our house. ... I knew I had to get something going. ... Everybody just really steps up, the whole team. The big wins we've had, it's always going to take a team effort."

And while Bolden was the main catalyst in Friday's win, he had plenty of help, especially from the North (12-7, 7-1) bench.

Jordan Brown had all eight of his points in the fourth quarter to complement Bolden's leadership, while Danny Crawford came off the bench to score all 14 of his points -- including 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range -- during the first half.

Crawford's shooting was very much needed to keep North in the game, as Peachtree Ridge (10-8, 5-3) gave the Bulldogs all they wanted for three quarters.

"Our bench players did a great job," North coach Zach Smith said. "He came in and gave us a huge lift off the bench that kind of sustained us going into halftime.

"We are really, really confident in our bench. Those three or four guys who played (Friday) night each played their role and did exactly what they're supposed to do."

Cole Rives put on a shooting clinic of his own, hitting three of his five 3-pointers in the first half that the Lions led most of the way before taking a 31-29 lead into intermission.

Rives then added two more treys and a transition layup during an 8-1 run over a 52-second span of the third quarter that saw Peachtree Ridge turn a three-point deficit into a 43-39 lead.

And the Lions still held a 48-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter before fortunes began to turn against them.

First, Rives left the game after coming down awkward on his leg while trying to block a Bolden shot less than three minutes into the final frame, and didn't return.

Second, point guard Benny Johnson, who was an important cog in the Peachtree Ridge engine all night with 13 points and a game-high eight assists, began accumulating fouls and eventually fouled out with 1:56 left.

"In a close game like that, you've got to make plays down the stretch, and we just didn't," Lions coach Keith Arrington said. "We missed some shots. ... Rives was making shots (in the first half), and he got hurt. ... We had a couple things (go wrong) here and there."

Finally, Bolden and Jordan got North into gear.

Brown ran the floor for two important transition layups -- the first on a feed from A.J. Clements and the latter by putting back a missed shot on the fastbreak -- to put the Bulldogs up for good at 50-48 with 5:28.

That's when Bolden began to take over, hitting 1 of 2 free throws, adding a 3-pointer, setting up another Brown transition layup and then hitting 3 of 4 free throws on North's next five possessions, keying a 13-4 run that left the Bulldogs with a 61-52 lead with 2:57 to play.

Johnson tried to help Peachtree Ridge keep up with a driving layup to cut the deficit lead to seven with 2:17 left, but he fouled out on North's next trip down the court, and the Bulldogs hit 4 of 6 free throws over the next 52 seconds to help put the game away.

"Keith does a good job, and I knew he was going to have those kids prepared," North coach Zach Smith said. "Those guys were going to come hungry and battle. They made plays in the first half and gave themselves a chance to win on the road.

"The fourth quarter, (Bolden) sure did (start to take over). He's a prime-time player for a reason. When it came right down to it, he wanted to take the game over and get us a victory."

Clements also contributed big in North's win with 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Jordan Capps joined Rives and Johnson in double-figure scoring for Peachtree Ridge with 12.