Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan — Greater Atlanta Christian's Collin Swinton (5) drives to the basket beside Spencer defenders Kamani Bush (24) and Deondre Hubbard (5) during the second round of Class AA state boys basketball playoffs in Norcross Saturday. GAC defeated Spencer 88-56.
NORCROSS — During a break in play in the second quarter, the GAC players on the floor huddled up.
“We came together on a free throw and said, this is the time,” Cam Boyd said. “(We said,) ‘We have to come together and play well.’ We just took off from there.”
The Spartans trailed by as many as five in the quarter but thanks to the hot shooting of Boyd and the dominance at the rim by Isaiah Wilkins that deficit disappeared, eventually turning into an 88-56 win in the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
With less than a minute to go in the half, Wilkins drove to the basket with a defender hanging on his shoulder and he threw down a dunk while drawing the foul. He stood in front of the Spartans students screaming and when he sank the free throw, the Spartans had their first lead of the game.
“It’s good to have a leader like Isaiah,” Boyd said.
It was Wilkins’ dunk that took the lead, but it was the sharp-shooting of Boyd which kept the Spartans close in a half where they turned the ball over a dozen times. Boyd hit four 3-pointers in the quarter, on his way to six on the night and a game-high of 25 points. Boyd nailed his first 3, missed his next two, but kept shooting eventually making 6 of 9 from a distance.
“My teammates did a really good job of finding me,” Boyd said. “I always think every single shot is going to go in. You can’t lose confidence.”
GAC never did. The Spartans ended the first half on a 12-4 run and then kept rolling in the third quarter, outscoring Spencer 23-9.
“We needed a tough game like that to see how we would respond,” GAC head coach Eddie Martin said. “I thought we did well.”
The wanting Spartans defense from the first half disappeared in the third quarter, not allowing Spencer a field goal. In the final two quarters the Green Wave hit a pair of 3s and did the rest of its meager scoring from the free-throw line.
“We settled in and started playing better basketball,” Martin said.
And as GAC settled in, Spencer unravelled. The Green Wave’s leading scorer Sean Buffen was called for his fifth four on a technical foul minutes after the Spencer head coach was given a technical. In the fourth quarter, Buffen was ejected for shouting from the bench. And while the Spencer team took center stage in the Long Forum, GAC and its players seemed to vanish, making 3 of the 4 free throws and quietly extending their lead.
“I thought they did a good job of keeping their composure,” Martin said.
Justin Lewis scored six of his 18 points in the third quarter and Tyler Hamilton came off the bench for Troy Morrison and gave the Spartans a strong showing on defense against Buffen. Isaiah Wilkins scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six Spencer shots.
In all, the Spartans easily overcame the slow start and advance to third round of the playoffs.
“Everyone we play now is going to be good,” Martin said. “You just have to hope you don’t have a completely bad game.”