And while the 47-39 final wasn’t the most pristine looking victory, North Cobb Christian coach Greg Matta knew his team cleared a significant hurdle by getting the win in the Class A power’s gym.
“This is a very big win for North Cobb Christian,” Matta said. “Whitefield is one of the premier Class A teams in the state, if not the country. But this is what we’re going to have to do, you have to go in, night in and night out, and win these kinds of games.”
The kind of game Matta was speaking of was one where North Cobb Christian would meet defending state champion Whitefield in a track meet-style 92-87 contest, but instead a low-scoring slugfest ensued. The only exception came during an 11-0 run over the final 6:20 of the first half that allowed the Eagles to take a 26-11 halftime lead.
“The second quarter killed us,” said Whitefield Academy coach Eddie James, whose squad was held without a basket and only three points in the quarter. “To me, that was the biggest thing. To get down to a team like that, a team with all that talent, it’s just hard to come back.”
The run was spurred by a layup and a dunk by Hulian Terrell and a 3-pointer by Keyshawn Butts, but instead of continuing to play the attacking style of game in the third quarter, Matta said his team forgot to play the game to win, and started playing not to lose.
Unfortunately, the Wolfpack could not capitalize when their chances arose.
Whitefield cut the North Cobb Christian lead to 28-22 midway through the third quarter, but a layup by Terrell and a 3-pointer by Kendall Crute pushed the advantage back to 11.
The Wolfpack pulled within six again at 39-33 with 3:30 to play on a jumper by Eric Lockett, who had game-high 19 points and nine rebounds, but a key offensive rebound by Alex Ho-on on the Eagles’ next trip down the floor, led to a layup by Elijah Weems and allowed North Cobb Christian to regain control.
The rest of the way, the Eagles made sure the ball found its way into the hands of Hunter Ware, who finished with a team-high 14 points on the night and went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 4 minutes.
Terrell finished the night with 10 points and six rebounds, and Stephon Jelks added seven points and nine rebounds for North Cobb Christian.
The victory gave the Eagles (7-1, 3-0) a half-game lead over Mount Pisgah Christian and St. Francis Region 6A (B), and it left the Wolfpack in strange territory. Whitefield (4-3, 1-2) dropped to sixth place in the subregion, and James said it was the first time in his 15 years at the school that the Wolfpack had dropped two region games in a week. St. Francis had beaten them 65-56 on Tuesday.
The 37 points also marked the first time Whitefield was held to fewer than 40 points since Feb. 26, 2005, when Southwest Atlanta Christian did it in the Class A state championship game.