Championship Preview: Boys Class AA

Photo by Ty Freeman


26-2, REGION 7

Calhoun is in the final for the first time since 2001 and it is bidding for its first-ever title in either boys or girls basketball. The Yellow Jackets’ appearance in this game did not seem likely when they fell twice to Class AA competition in an 11-day span (to Dade County in quadruple overtime and to Model), but they have not lost since Jan. 14. Their best and biggest win in the current hot streak came last week in the semifinals. Vidalia was one win away from setting up what would have been a Class AA championship showdown between the only two undefeated boys teams in the entire state. The Jackets, however, had other ideas. They used a dominant performance down low by senior forward Austin Byrd, who grabbed 24 rebounds, to prevail 54-41.

Byrd, also a defensive end who has signed with Kennesaw State, gives Calhoun a formidable inside presence that it will desperately need against Greater Atlanta Christian. The team is not particularly big from top to bottom, but Byrd is 6-foot-3 and fellow senior Keyth Fightmaster is a 6-foot-7 center who also provides valuable experience and size down low. Senior guard Chandler Curtis can fill it up from the outside and he drained four three-pointers en route to a 20-point performance against Coosa in the quarterfinals. Sophomore guard Jireh Wilson is the shutdown defender on a unit that has allowed more than 50 points in a game only twice since Jan. 21.

Calhoun may have an edge in a close game, especially if it is anywhere near striking distance heading into the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets have been absolutely unbelievable in the final frame of play dur- ing these state playoffs. They have outscored their four opponents by a whopping combined fourth-quarter score of 90-43, a 47-point margin or an average of 11.8 points for those counting.


31-0, REGION 6

Greater Atlanta Christian may be in one of the state’s smaller classifications, but it also may be the best team in the entire business. Jefferson head coach Bolling DuBose, whose team lost to the Spartans in last week’s quarterfinals, expressed that sentiment and said he had not talked to anyone who thought differently. And who’s to disagree? Greater Atlanta Christian is a perfect 31-0, with victories against multiple Class AAAAAA opponents plus wins over schools from five different states and the Bahamas. It won its first three state playoff games by double-digits before beating Laney by eight points, its narrowest margin of victory since a Jan. 20 defeat of Hillgrove.

The Spartans have plenty of experience as they attempt to successfully defend their 2013 Class AA title. Forward Justin Lewis, guard Troy Morrison and forward Isaiah Wilkins are all seniors. They have been key contributors from start to finish this season and each one scored in double-figures against Laney. Wilkins, the stepson of former Atlanta Hawks’ great Dominique Wilkins, has signed with the University of Virginia. Greater Atlanta Christian uses its unrivaled size to dominate inside and its big men are complimented perfectly by the slick shooting of junior guard Cam Boyd.

The team’s defensive paint presence forces oppo- nents’ to score from the perimeter, often a difficult proposition. The Spartans have allowed more than 60 points in a game only five times this season and they have limited teams to 35 points or fewer eight times. A title would be nothing new for either the school or head coach Eddie Martin. In his fifth season at the helm, Martin has already captured three state championships with Greater Atlanta Christian. He also won three in a row of the Class AAAAA variety with Norcross from 2006 through 2008. Overall, the Spartans are bidding for their sixth boys basketball championship in school history.

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