NORCROSS — Norcross was without star post Lorenzo Carter for its game against the Christ School in the Sixth Annual Hilton Invitational after all.
But the rest of the Blue Devils made sure his absence wasn’t as troublesome as was feared.
Guards Khalen Pinkett and A.J. Farrar and wings Andre Chatfield and A.J. Bush combined for 52 points, and led two key runs that helped the defending Class AAAAAA state champions sprint past the North Carolina power 65-46 Saturday at the House of Blue.
Meanwhile, Greater Atlanta Christian was thrilled to have starting point guard Troy Morrison back for its game against Winston-Salem Prep in the event’s finale.
The senior guard had 11 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals to compliment a big scoring night from Cam Boyd and Isaiah Wilkins as the Spartans remained unbeaten for the season with a 72-64 win.
Even without Carter in its line-up, Norcross (16-5) was able to make-up for a distinct size disadvantage thanks to solid perimeter play on both ends of the court.
“We always need (Carter),” Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said of the 6-foot-6 senior, who missed his second straight game while in Tallahassee, Fla., for a football recruiting trip to Florida State. “(Friday night) and (Saturday) night, we started things a little slower than we normally start because we were a little out of synch, and (Carter) brings so much presence to us. But these guys realize they’re pretty good.”
The Blue Devils showed how good they were on the defensive end by forcing the visiting Greenies (13-12) into 21 turnovers — 17 of them off steals.
Offensively, Pinkett, Farrar and Bush got things going in the second quarter with Norcross holding just a 17-13 lead after one period.
Bush scored all 10 of his points, while Farrar chipped in six more as the Blue Devils outscored the Greenies 22-3 in the period to take a commanding 39-16 lead into halftime.
But the Christ School was able to chop nearly half of that lead away in the third quarter, with Alex Wnuk scoring five of his team-high 15 points in the period to pull the Greenies as close as 11 points before trailing just 42-29 heading into the fourth.
However, Chatfield and Pinkett helped Norcross regain control early in the final frame.
Chatfield hit a layup and a 3-pointer, while Pinkkett dished off two assists and broke away for dunk to spark a 9-3 run over the first 1:54 of the fourth quarter to push the lead back to a more comfortable 51-32, and the Blue Devils cruised from there.
Chatfield led all scores with 19 points, while Farrar had 12 points, eight rebounds and four steals, Pinkett finished with 11 points, eight assists and four steals and Bush had five rebounds and four steals to go with his 10 points.
Mike Bowser joined Wnuk in double figures for the Christ School with 10 points.
In the nightcap, Boyd came out firing for GAC (22-0) in the opening moments of the second half, hitting three of his six 3-pointers on the night and nine of his team-high 20 points, as GAC took as much as a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter.
That shooting helped open the lane for Morrision, who contributed far more to the Spartans in his second game back from an ankle injury than he did in his return against Hapeville Charter on Friday.
“He gave us more than we thought we’d get out of him, to be honest,” GAC coach Eddie Martin said of Morrison. “In (Friday) night’s game, he played about 14 minutes. … He wasn’t going to sit (Saturday). He was going to play, and he was big lift for us.”
That lift was no bigger than in the fourth quarter, where the Spartans had to battle after Winston-Salem Prep (12-3) fought back to within 49-48 heading into the final frame.
With GAC leading by 59-57 inside two minutes to play, Morrison found his way into the lane and drew fouls on two consecutive possessions before hitting 3 of 4 from the line to give the Spartans a little breathing room at 62-57 with 1:25 to play.
And even with the Phoenix staying in the game behind Georgia Southern-signee Mike Hughes’ game-high 26 points, Morrison, Wilkins, Boyd and Justin Lewis each hit key free throws in the final 1:05 to help the Spartans claim their 40th straight win dating back to last season.
“This was a big win for us,” Martin said. “That team is very, very good. We had to play for 32 minutes. It only did good things for us. I told the kids before the game that win or lose, if we get out there and compete, this game’s going to help us down the stretch.”
Wilkins also had a big game for GAC with 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots, while Aaron Lipscomb joined Hughes in double figures for Winston-Salem Prep with 14 points, and Tennessee-Martin commit Coye Simmons chipped in 11 points and two blocks.
Wenonah (Ala.) 82
Avery Patterson’s driving layup with four seconds left helped Wheeler overcome as much as a 20-point deficit to edge the visitors from Birmingham.
Patterson finished with 21 points, while Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 30 points, and the Wildcats also got 18 points from Elijah Staley and 10 points from Daniel Giddens.
Justin Coleman led a barrage of 3-pointers from Wenonah with six among his team-high 22 points, including a conventional three-point play that gave the Dragons a one-point lead with 24 seconds left.
Marcus Williams added 21 points for Wenonah, while Kameron Hardrick and Cedric McGinnis added 11 each.
Sparkman (Ala.) 63
Columbia-bound senior Kyle Castlin scored 27 points as the defending Class AAAAAA state runner-up Hawks, jumped out to an early 17-2 lead and held off the Senators.
Jourdan Julian added 15 points for Hillgrove, while B.J. Brown finished with 13 points.
Jamal Johnson had a game-high 30 points to lead Sparkman, while Thomas Melbert chipped in 10.
Providence Day (N.C.) 74, St. Francis 70
Jordan Watkins led four players in double figures as the Chargers held off Class A powerhouse St. Francis.
Josh Howard had 15 points for Providence, while Grant Williams added 11 and Devin Mills had 10.
Malik Beasley led St. Francis with 25 points, while Kaiser Gates finished with 18 Kobi Simmons contributed 16 for the Knights.