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Defense carries Spartans into 2nd round

NORCROSS -- For all their success this basketball season, very few of the Greater Atlanta Christian boys have played significant minutes in the state playoffs.

That inexperience may have affected the Spartans, particularly in the first four minutes of Wednesday night's Class AA state tournament opener, but they made up for it with defensive intensity in an 80-37 victory over visiting Coosa.

The Eagles (16-12) were held to 10 of 40 shooting (25 percent) with 14 turnovers over the first three quarters, shortening the fourth quarter to six minutes. GAC (25-3) advances to host Spencer in Saturday's second round.

"We played hard on defense," GAC boys coach Eddie Martin said. "We held them to 37 points and they're averaging right at 65 a game, so we did a good job defensively. We made more turnovers than we needed to, but I think that's just nerves and bad decision-making. They're kids and I understand that. We'd been doing things really well and we don't need to start overthinking things out there."

With just two players and one reserve with state playoff experience, GAC had 15 turnovers of its own and led Coosa just 12-7 midway through the opening quarter. From there, the hosts cranked up the defense and went on a 25-3 run that turned it into a rout by the middle of the second quarter.

The Spartans made 27 of 46 field goals (58.7 percent) over the first three quarters.

"It was the first true taste of a state tournament situation for a lot of them," Martin said. "I thought we'd be a little more relaxed being at home, but hopefully we will be next time."

GAC put four scorers in double figures, led by 17 points each from Collin Swinton and Cam Boyd. Swinton also had five assists and Boyd had four assists, three steals and made a game-high five 3-pointers.

The Spartans' size inside also was tough for Coosa to handle as Isaiah Wilkins (13 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks) and Justin Lewis (12 points, 10 rebounds) had big games. Tyler Hamilton contributed nine points off the bench.

Korley Grier was the only consistent offense for Coosa, scoring 17 points. Christian McFather was the next highest Eagle with six points.