ATHENS – For three quarters the Hughes boys would make a run, only to have Brunswick find an answer. But when the Panthers opened the final period with an 11-0 run, there was nothing to stop them from coming away with their first state championship.
No. 4 Hughes got 26 points from junior Landers Nolley and outlasted unranked Brunswick 73-52 to win the Class AAAAAA boys championship at Stegeman Coliseum on Thursday.
Nolley had a three-point play and two free throws during the decisive streak and senior Derrick Cook finished it with two buckets, which gave the Panthers a 58-44 lead with 5:26 remaining.
“They battled and battled and battled and we had to fight for it,” Hughes coach Rory Welsh. “The second half we got some runs going and was able to close them out.”
Hughes (25-8) was led by Nolley, a long 6-foot-6 shooting guard being recruited by Georgia and Georgia Tech. Nolley was 7-for-12 from the field and 11-for-12 from the line to score a game-high 26 points. He added six rebounds and four steals.
“I just got it for the team,” Nolley said. “They fed me and I hit the shots, move on to the next play.”
Nolley returned to the Atlanta area this year after living in Chicago the past two years and winning a state championship there as a sophomore.
“We just stayed together and played as a team,” Nolley said. “When you do that good things happened. It’s a game of runs. They’re going to make runs, we’re going to make runs. Just had to find a way to overcome it.”
Hughes also got 19 points and seven rebounds from Cook and 14 points from Richard Matthews.
Brunswick (23-9) was led by Marcus Scott with 14 points. Dereck Lmpkin and Kyami Dunham both scored 10 and Lampkin had a team-high six rebounds.
Hughes looked like it was going to bury Brunswick a couple of times in the first half, only to watch the Pirates bounce back. Hughes used a 9-2 streak to take a seven-point lead and a 7-0 run to take a nine-point lead, but Brunswick responded with a 10-0 run to pull within a point. Hughes led 33-31 at halftime.
“No matter how much adversity, you fight through it and stick together as a family,” Welsh said. “At halftime we really preached finishing the possessions.
Hughes had a 6-0 run and took a five-point lead in the third quarter. Nolley scored nine points in the quarter and Hughes led 47-44 going into the final quarter.
“Offensively our team is somewhat balanced and once the ball starts moving and our defense gets our offense started, that’s what really gets the runs going.”
The win provided the Fulton County school with its first state championship in any sport.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Welsh said. “This isn’t just for the basketball program. This is for every program at the school. We’re a family. This is for everybody in the school and everybody in South Fulton County.”
Hughes (73): Derrick Cook 19, Ahmid Bryant 8, Richard Matthews 14, Jaylen McCluney 4, Landers Nolley 26, Ross Andrews 2.
Brunswick (52): Dereck Lampkin 10, Jaylen Jackson 5, Daquan Humphreys 6, Kyami Dunham 10, Marcus Scott 14, Earl Bell 3, Danijah Gammage 4.