With a win Tuesday at last-place Upson-Lee, combined with a Griffin win at home the same night over North Clayton, Spalding can finish third in the subregion and gain a coveted bye in the opening round of the upcoming Region 4-AAAA tournament where the early rounds between the No. 4, 5 and 6 seeds will be played at Dutchtown High School in Hampton while the later rounds between the top seeds will be played at Woodland High School in Stockbridge.
"That's what it's all about right now — finishing in the top three," first-year Spalding High head coach Kemo Spear said. "That's all I care about."
Spalding (10-10 overall, 7-7 subregion), on que, as if getting ready for a playoff run, won its second in a row and for the third time in the last four games, while North Clayton (11-12, 8-6) was unable to avenge an 82-73 loss to Spalding at home on Jan. 15 as it lost its third in a row and for the fourth time in the last five games to remain in third place in the subregion and dangerously close to finishing in fourth or even fifth.
The Jags trailed 9-7 after the first quarter and 25-20 at the half before taking a one-point lead on a three-point shot by Stephen Thrash midway in the third quarter. With :10 left in the third quarter Dickerson made a pair of free throws to give his team a 39-36 lead which is how the team's started the fourth quarter.
Spalding built and maintained a five to seven-point lead through most of the fourth quarter which turned into a free-throw shooting contest down the stretch. Spalding never faltered, making 10 of 12 in the final 1:17. By the time Brittian missed one all that remained was :06. It ended an 8-for-8 streak. By then, however, Spalding held a 63-55 lead and the game was over as Brittian made his second free throw to account for the game's final margin.
Rounding out the game's leading scorers were Spalding's Stephen Thrash (10 points) and Alex Bonner (9) as well as North Clayton's Stafan Bradley (21) and Justin Varner (9). It should be noted Dickerson made four three-point shots in the first half, including three in the second quarter alone.
Now Spalding sets its sights on trying to avenge a 79-76 overtime loss at home to Upson-Lee when it travels Tuesday to take on the Knights in Thomaston. Griffin, which lost 61-45 at North Clayton on Jan. 18, will look to split with the Eagles the same night — an act which could help crosstown rival Spalding High finish third in the final subregion standings.