Posted: 7:48 pm Friday, March 7th, 2014
By Stan Awtrey
MACON – A near-perfect performance from senior Isaiah Wilkins helped the Greater Atlanta Christian boys complete their first unbeaten season and win the Class AA championship for the second straight year.
Wilkins, who has committed to Virginia, had 29 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in the 58-55 win over Calhoun at the Macon Coliseum. Wilkins also drew a crucial charge with 1:11 left and slapped away a loose ball at the buzzer to prevent Calhoun from getting one last shot.
“I was skeptical about all the hype,” Calhoun coach Vince Layson said. “I’m a believer now. He hit some big shots.”
The win completes GAC’s perfect 32-0 season. The Spartans are the first boys team from Gwinnett County to go undefeated and won their third state championship in four years and the seventh overall. GAC has won 50 straight dating back to last season.
“It never gets old,” GAC coach Eddie Martin said. “It doesn’t get any easier, I know that.”
GAC also got a great floor game from point guard Troy Morrison, who had seven points, was 5-for-5 from the line, with five assists and four steals.
Calhoun (26-3) was led by Kaelan Riley with 18 points and eight rebounds, Chandler Curtis with 14 points and Austin Byrd with eight points and 10 rebounds.
“We did all we could,” Layson said. “We played four quarters of great basketball. GAC is a great team with a great coach but it was a one-possession game at the end. What can you say?”
GAC could not shake Calhoun in the first half. The Spartans led 16-10 after Wilkins made a jumper to open the second period but could not increase the lead. Chandler Curtis made three 3-pointers and scored nine points to keep Calhoun close and his behind-the-back pass that led to Keyt Fightmaster’s basket at the buzzer cut GAC’s lead to 28-25 at intermission.
Calhoun shot the ball poorly in the first half, making just 9 of 26 (34.6 percent) but were able to hang with GAC on the boards. Calhoun was not able to contain Wilkins, who had 11 points and nine rebounds in the first half.
In the third period the Yellow Jackets a 6-1 flurry to catch GAC at 33-33 and took the lead 36-35 on a 3-pointer by Kaelan Riley. That’s when Wilkins went to work again, scoring on a slam and adding another field goal to put the Spartans ahead by three.
The fourth quarter was all Wilkins on offense. He moved to the free throw line and began hitting a series of soft jumpers, scoring 10 straight points to stake GAC to a 51-46 lead. But Calhoun refused to go away. The Yellow Jackets drew to within one on a 3-pointer from Lewis and again via a pair of free throws.
“This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Wilkins said. “I’m sad the high school season is over, but we went out with a bang.”
GAC knew it was on the cusp of history but didn’t talk about. The players and staff didn’t have to.
“Everyone knew what the situation was,” Martin said. “We just didn’t talk about it. Now we can sit back and enjoy it.”
Calhoun (55): Kaelan Riley 18, Jireh Wilson 5, Chandler Curtis 14, Austin Byrd 8, Keyt Fightmaster 8, Chapin Rierson 2.
GAC (58): Eric Jamison 1, Justin Lewis 7, Troy Morrison 7, Cam Boyd 4, Isaiah Wilkins 29, Garrett Covington 6, Tyler Hamilton 4.