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Growing GAC wins for 13th time in 14 games

NORCROSS -- Defending two-time Class AA state champion Greater Atlanta Christian went into the season not knowing what to expect out of its inside players.

"We had no experience," coach Eddie Martin said. "None at all."

But GAC's 62-42 victory over Class AAAAA South Cobb on Saturday in the Hilton Invitational at the Norcross House of Blue demonstrated the progress that the Spartans' big men have made while having to gain game savvy on the fly.

"The pieces are starting to come together," Martin said. "I'm happy with our progress. Not satisfied, but happy."

Senior sharpshooter Cole Hobbs hit six 3-pointers en route to a game-best 23 points, helping break the game with South Cobb wide open. But equally important to GAC's eighth straight victory was the all-around play of 6-foot-7 senior Robert Armstrong and 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaiah Wilkins.

Armstrong had 12 points and seven rebounds, while Wilkins contributed 10 points and eight boards as GAC (15-5) won for the 13th time in the past 14 games. Armstrong is the brother of Georgia's Anne Marie Armstrong and Wilkins the step-son of NBA great Dominique Wilkins.

"It's been a rollercoaster, where our big guys play very well one game and not so well another," Martin said. "But they are really starting to come along. We need that inside presence to open things up for our outside game."

Given the extra room, Hobbs fired at will against South Cobb (10-8) and rarely missed. "He's been lighting it up lately," Martin said.

Only one of Hobbs' seven baskets was from inside the 3-point arc and his three free throws came when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt.

GAC, ranked No. 6 in the Class AA coaches poll, was supposed to play Orr Academy. But the Chicago team was snowed in and had to cancel its two games in the Hilton Invitational.

South Cobb was available Saturday as a fill-in to play GAC and the Eagles jumped to a quick 8-2 lead. That is when Armstrong, who played little as a junior, came off the bench and helped get the Spartans going.

Armstrong scored six points as GAC moved into a 14-all tie at the end of the first quarter and had four more points as the Spartans took a 31-25 lead at halftime.

"Rob played very well," Martin said. "He gave us a big lift."

What Armstrong started, Hobbs built on with his red-hot outside shooting as GAC increased its lead to 45-31 going into the final quarter and kept pulling away. The Spartans had eight 3-pointers, with freshman Cameron Boyd adding a pair.

Armstrong and 6-foot-6 junior Andrew Lewis give GAC two true centers, while Wilkins serves as a slender power forward.

"Isaiah isn't a back-to-basket player, but he has a nice mid-range shot," Martin said.

The big threat for South Cobb was husky 6-foot-4 sophomore Milique Johnson, who had 18 points and eight rebounds.

Guards Delano Spencer and Collin Swinton -- GAC's leading scorers -- had off games shooting and combined for just seven points. It didn't matter, though.

"We haven't clicked on all cylinders yet," Martin said. "But we've got time. We're starting to get there."

Charlotte Olympic 69, Wheeler 52

Charlotte Olympic, ranked No. 35 in the ESPN Top 50, jumped to 28-10 lead by the end of the first quarter and defeated Wheeler 69-52 to improve to 20-0. The Trojans led 43-25 at halftime.

Allerik Freeman had 19 points for Olympic. Deriece Parks scored 16 and John Brown added 14.

Wheeler, ranked No. 5 in the Class AAAAA coaches poll, fell to 8-6. Freshman Kejuan Johnson led the Wildcats with 16 points. Charles Mitchell and Elijah Staley each scored 11.

Harrison 81, Dr. Phillips 76

Ryan Blumenthal scored 28 points, passing 1,000 for his career, and 6-foot-10 East Carolina signee Marshall Guilmette added 18 as Region 4-AAAAA leader Harrison (13-4) surprised Florida power Dr. Phillips 81-76 in the first game of the day.

Dr. Phillips, which had ripped Berkmar 77-50 on Friday, led by 10 points late in the second quarter before Harrison went on a 28-10 run to turn the game around. Dr. Phillips (15-5) got 22 points from Roderick Lawrence, 20 from RaShawn Powell and 17 from Isaac Lane.