7A Boys: Meadowcreek 56, Norcross 43

Meadowcreek bested Norcross, a team it had lost to three times this season.

ATLANTA — These two high class basketball programs previously met on three separate occasions in the regular season, setting up an epic contest for the Class AAAAAAA State Championship title. All three games resulted in wins for Norcross, two of which were won on buzzer beaters. Tonight, the Meadowcreek boys basketball team walked away with the last laugh, edging out their Region 7 rivals to claim their first-ever state title in school history with a 56-43 win.

A back-and-forth contest between the Mustangs and the Blue Devils resulted in nine lead changes just in the first half. Norcross took the lead early, hitting three free throws to go ahead 3-0 after 12 seconds of play.

Meadowcreek took the lead after two layups from senior power forward Amari Kelly and a deep three from junior shooting guard Jamir Chaplin, giving the Mustangs an 11-6 lead. Norcross battled back after several trips to the charity stripe but remained down 16-14 to Meadowcreek at the end of the first.

With 4:39 left in the first half, Norcross took back the lead after sophomore guard Brandon Boston hit a shot from beyond the arc, making it a 21-20 ballgame. With 25 seconds left in the half, Meadowcreek’s Cory Hightower drove to the basket and made the go-ahead layup, putting the Mustangs on top 27-26 at the half.

The Norcross offense was fueled early by Boston and junior guard Kyle Sturdivant, who together accounted for 15 of their team’s 26 first-half points. Foul trouble would eventually be the downfall for them both.

Coming into the third quarter, Meadowcreek continued to attack the basket and draw fouls.

“Our plan was to attack,” said Meadowcreek head coach Curtis Gilleylen as he celebrated on the court with his team. “Kyle got in foul trouble early and was hesitant for the rest of the game. We knew we had them at that point.”

The third quarter was the lowest-scoring of the game, with only 17 total points scored between the teams.

This was no accident, however, as Gilleylen explained the importance of the pace of the third quarter. “We slowed down the pace. Slowed the pace, got the ball inside. We limited them from getting to where they wanted to go.”

The fourth quarter featured a change in pace, mainly through the play of Chaplin and Dequarius Nicholas, who led the Mustangs with 16 points and eight rebounds. Together, the scoring duo put up 16 points in the fourth to help secure their school’s first-ever state title. Six of Chaplin’s fourth-quarter points came from huge dunks, which kept his team in high spirits as they closed in on their victory. The junior shooting guard ended the game with 13 points and five rebounds.

“We earned this,” said Chaplin. “We fought for this in every way. We got tough. They have skill, but they don’t have the teamwork and the brotherhood that we have. We’re going down as legends. This is our night.”

When asked to reflect on the season, Gilleylen had nothing but pride for his team. “I’m proud of these kids. I’m proud of them hanging in there. Now we’re going to celebrate.”

After the groundbreaking win, Gilleylen expressed high hopes for the seasons to come. “This is for Meadowcreek. We’ve been the underdog for so long. This will put Meadowcreek on the map.”

Kyle Sturdivant led the Blue Devils offense with 14 points and seven rebounds. Brandon Boston scored 13 points, fouling out of the game with 6:10 remaining.

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