Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Cam Boyd (12) goes to the floor to keep possession of the ball while guarded by Bleckley County's D'andre Pitts (11) during the fourth period of the boys Class AA state championship boys basketball title game played on Friday in Macon. GAC defeated Bleckley County 69-52.
MACON -- Balance has been a point of emphasis for Greater Atlanta Christian's boys basketball team all season.
And while the Spartans have been good about living up to that goal most of the season, it's doubtful they've could've done any better about dividing up the workload than they did in their Class AA state championship game against Bleckley County.
All five starters scored in double figures, led by Troy Morrison's 17 points, and every player who took the floor contributed something in GAC's 69-52 win Friday at the Macon Centreplex.
Juniors Isaiah Wilkins (12 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots, three steals) and Justin Lewis (11 points, 10 rebounds) each posted a double-double as the Spartans (29-3) pulled away in the second half for their third state title in the last four years.
"If it was (the best team game), we saved the best for last," GAC coach Eddie Martin said shortly after his team had given him the sixth state title of his coaching career. "That's been the M.O. of this team all year. It's a very unselfish team, share the basketball, play for each other. They're not playing for themselves. They're playing for each other, and when you do that, that's the true sign of a team."
Indeed, different Spartans stepped forward to lead the team at different stages of the game.
Early on, it was Wilkins who scored six points and two assists in the first four minutes to spark an 11-2 opening run en route to a 14-8 GAC advantage after one quarter, with the lead reaching as much as 21-11 after a jumper from Wilkins with 5:16 left in the first half.
But after an uncharacteristic missed dunk from Wilkins with the lead at 21-15 late in the half Bleckley County (28-4) began to gain momentum.
The Royals used a 7-1 run that pulled themselves even at 22 when DaMario Beck drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:02 left in the half.
However, Collin Swinton got back to the line and hit two free throws with 39.1 seconds to give GAC the lead back at 24-22 heading into intermission.
Still, Bleckley County continued momentum into the second half.
The Royals made a defensive adjustment on Wilkins, who was held to just two points after the first 11 minutes of the game, and began to heat up from the perimeter to make a run in the third quarter.
Rydealous Taylor drained a pair of NBA-range 3-pointers -- part of his game-high 20 points -- to spark an 8-2 run over the opening 1:11 of the second half to give Bleckely County its first lead of the game, and build it to as big as 30-26.
They still held a 37-34 when Morrison and Lewis began to assert themselves offensively.
"Isaiah is Isaiah, but we knew others had to step up," said Lewis, who added a blocked shot, a steal and an assist to his double-double. "Coach (Martin) always says, 'Do your part.' We've played games where (opponents have) doubled Isaiah. That gives me open shots, and I'm going to take them and knock them down."
Lewis knocked down two shots, while Morrison added a bucket and a pair of free throws during a 10-2 run over the final 3:34 of the period to vault GAC back into the lead at 44-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
"The second half, we came out and do what we do," said Morrison, who handed out a game-high eight assists and was 11 of 15 from the line. "Coach to us we had to get out on their shooters. (Taylor) and (Beck) can shoot pretty good, but we got out on (them) in the second half. I think that was the key to the game."
The Spartans did take their perimeter defense up a notch in the fourth quarter.
After the Royals hit 6 of 14 shots (42.9 percent) from the floor, including 4 of 10 (40 percent) from 3-point range, in the third quarter, they managed to hit just 4 of 15 shots (26.7 percent) in the fourth quarter thanks to the increased pressure.
"We went cold," Bleckley County coach Clifford Kerbo said. "We had a good run at the start of the third quarter, then all of the sudden, we couldn't get (the ball) inside, and that kind of hurt us a lot.
"When we can't get the ball in to Beck (in the post), that really hurts. We work from the outside in. They were fronting him and backing him, and then we didn't have a good game from the outside this time around."
And the Spartans began to pull away.
Wilkins hit his only bucket of the second half 34 seconds into the fourth quarter, followed by 1 of 2 free throws from Morrison, a 3-pointer from Cam Boyd and two more free throws from Lewis to push the lead into double digits at 52-42 with 5:42 left.
GAC then put the game away at the line, with Morrison hitting seven as the Spartans went 16-for-20 in the fourth quarter.
In addition to the big night from Morrison, Lewis and Wilkins, the Spartans also got help from Boyd, who wound up with 13 points, including a 3 of 7 night from behind the 3-point arc, while Swinton closed out his GAC career with 10 points and five rebounds.
Beck joined Taylor in double figures with 14 points, but the figure is nine points below his season average. The 6-7 senior also had a team-best nine rebounds, while Taylor added seven boards.