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Archer holds off late South rally for 70-66 win

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Ultimately, Archer's boys basketball team got what it wanted from its Region 8-AAAAAA opener in Tuesday's 70-66 home win over South Gwinnett.

How the Tigers (4-0, 1-0) got there, however, had more ups and downs than coach Tim Watkins would prefer.

Twice, Archer built double-digit leads -- including a 16-point advantage early in the fourth quarter -- only to see South (2-2, 0-1) rally.

But in the end, the Tigers took care of the bottom line behind 24 points, four assists and three steals from Randall Smith and 15 points from Bryan Hamlet, who also combined to hit 6 of 8 free throws in the final 2:55 -- including 3 of 4 in the final 20.1 seconds -- to finally put the game away.

"(The win) was the positive," Watkins said. "But we've got to do a better job when we get the lead. When we're up 16, we've got to do a better job of closing that out.

"But give South credit. They scrapped. They played hard. They really got after it. They had something to do with it. But we've got to do a better job of closing out."

The Tigers did a good job of getting out in front, taking as much as an 11-point lead in a turnover-filled first half before the Comets pulled to within 29-24 at halftime.

Archer then looked like it was about to pull away behind two big third-quarter runs keyed by hot shooting from the perimeter.

First, Nafis Floyd hit a 3-pointer and a driving layup to ignite a 9-2 run that turned a two-point lead into a 46-37 advantage following a Hamlet jumper with 3:17 left in the period.

Then, a long jumper by John Gillis and a 3-pointer Smith keyed an 8-0 run over the final 1:10 of the quarter to end the Tigers into the fourth quarter with a 59-45 lead.

And when Smith scored in transition 22 seconds into the final frame, Archer had its biggest lead at 61-45.

But South, which was playing with just nine players while awaiting help from the Comets football team that was recently eliminated from the state playoffs, slowly began to creep back into the game.

Brandon Williams and Gerald Washington each scored six points over the next 4:17, and some tough defense that forced 10 of Archer's 23 turnovers on the evening in the fourth quarter.

And when Washington scored on a stickback with 3:10 remaining, the Comets had completed a 17-4 run that pulled them to within 63-62.

South even had two chances to either tie or take the lead, but an over-and-back turnover with 2:38 left and a missed 3-pointer by Logan Adams, who led South with 20 points and 10 rebounds, with 21.4 seconds left thwarted those opportunities.

Smith then cashed in on two free throws with 20.1 seconds left to push the Archer lead to 69-64, and after a Washington tap in, Hamlet hit 1 of 2 from the line with 8.8 seconds left to make it a two possession game, allowing the Tigers to hold on for the win.

"I'm learning. The kids are learning," first-year South coach Jamal Basit said. "Archer played a really good game and they made plays at the end. ... At the end of the day, these guys played hard. That's all you can really hope for."

Archer also got a boost from Floyd, who finished with 10 points, while Aubrey Overby chipped in four points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Washington nearly joined Logan in posting a double-double for South with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Camryn Moye added 11 points and K.V. Walker contributed eight points and seven assists for the Comets.