ALPHARETTA — After watching Alpharetta’s twin sharpshooters Ty Toney and Carols Burse combined for 50 points in bouncing them out of last year’s state tournament, Berkmar’s boys weren’t about to let it happen again.
In Saturday’s second-round game of this year’s Class AAAAAA state tournament, the Patriots clamped down and held the pair to just over half that total.
Meanwhile, C.J. Foster got the offense going with 22 points as Berkmar earned its way into the state quarterfinals for the second straight season with a 56-48 road victory at Alpharetta.
The Appalachian State-bound Toney (15 points) and Burse (13) still got into double figures.
But the defensive effort from a number of individuals, particularly Bradley Holmes and James Sanders, helped keep that pair — plus another Alpharetta (20-10) bomber in Connor Ramsey (two points) — well below their season averages and sent the Patriots (17-12) into this year’s quarterfinals against Norcross.
“We just said we weren’t going to let (Burse) and (Ramsey) score,” Berkmar coach Greg Phillips said. “Toney’s such a good player, you’re not going to (completely) stop him. We just wanted to do the best we could on him. But we said (Burse) and (Ramsey) are not going to get open looks. I think Bradley and James and Malcolm (Hannah) did a heck of a job on those guys.”
Holmes had the primary assignment on Toney in the first half and not only held him to just three points in the first 16 minutes, but sent him to the bench after drawing an offensive foul on him just 2:38 into the second quarter.
“We weren’t going to lose to Alpharetta again,” said Holmes, who also contributed one point and two rebounds. “You can’t go out to the same team two years in a row. So, I made it my job to lock down on (Toney). I watched a lot of film on him and picked up on his habits.”
Still, Alpharetta led most of the first half thanks to strong defense of its own, plus a powerful effort in the low post from Bjorn Walker.
The 6-foot-5 senior went toe-to-toe with Berkmar’s 6-11 post Tim Rowe and scored two of his 11 points on a baseline drive and reverse layup to give the Raiders its biggest lead of 20-15 with 2:12 left in the first half.
But Foster began to heat up, scoring the final six points of the first half over the final 1:44 to send Berkmar into intermission with a 22-20 lead.
With the lead still at two points early in the third quarter, the Patriots kept the momentum going, with Sanders feeding Rowe in the lane for a jump hook that ignited a 12-4 run over the final 4:02 of the period to push the lead to 38-28.
The lead reached as much as 13 points twice in the fourth quarter, the last time at 43-30 after two Foster free throws with 3:49 remaining.
Toney tried to keep Alpharetta in the game, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the final 3:40 of the game, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key that pulled the Raiders as close as 48-41 with 1:05 left.
But the Patriots, which has struggled at times from the foul line this season, put the game away with some clutch free throws down the stretch, including 11 of 16 attempts in the fourth quarter.
Five of those free throws came from Jonathan Sanks, who joined Foster in double figures with 15 points, while five more came from Rowe, who had a slow offensive night with seven points, but still pulled down a game-high nine rebounds and blocked two shots.
Berkmar also got eight points from Hannah and two points and eight rebounds from Sanders.