The Bears survived in the end, beating their crosstown and Region 4-AAAA rivals 53-48 in Division B action. The win completed a Spalding sweep for Griffin High, as the Lady Bears got past the Lady Jags of Spalding in the earlier contest.
With the win, Griffin improves to 11-5 overall and 5-3 in region play. The Bears surpassed their win total from last season, as they were 10-18 in 2011-12. Spalding dropped its third straight game to fall to 6-7, 3-4.
Spalding now leads the series 2-1 in boys basketball competition.
Bears head coach Prelvis Paster wasn’t exactly thrilled with the win.
“This wasn’t a game to be proud of, for sure. We have got to learn to close out games better — this was the third straight game we’ve failed to close out,” he said. “But it was a region win and any win in this program is a good win.”
The Bears came out on fire, scoring the first 10 points of the game before Spalding scored on a free throw. They actually led 12-1 before a fast-break dunk by Spalding’s Omari O’Neal seemed to calm the Jags down and allow them to finally execute on offense. Spalding went on a 7-2 run to only trail 14-10 after the first quarter.
Both teams missed shots in the second quarter, but Spalding hit enough of them to take a 23-22 halftime lead.
The iron was unkind to Spalding in the second half. The Jags had several opportunities to take control of the game but the shots wouldn’t fall. The game was tied at 26-all late in the third until a slight spurt from Griffin made the score 33-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams took bad shots in the final period, but Griffin warmed up a bit while Spalding stayed cold. A 3-pointer from Rayshod Armstrong and free throws by Jaquez Parks put Griffin up 44-33 with over 5 minutes remaining and the Bears looked to put the Jags away.
Spalding had other ideas. Terence Brittian sank a trey to cut the lead to 44-36 and Spalding roared back like it did Tuesday against Jonesboro. Griffin helped the Jags comeback by making awful plays and missing badly on free throws in the final 4:00 of the game.
The Jags got within four points in the waning seconds, but Griffin finally sank free throws down the stretch to pull out the game, 53-48.
“We got good looks, but we couldn’t make shots. We missed layups, putbacks, you name it,” said Jags head coach Kemo Spear, coaching in his former gym for the first time. “Despite all that, we cut the lead to four and forced Griffin to call timeouts on inbounds plays. We fought hard all the way.”
Tae Mayes led Griffin with 14 points, 4 assists and a steal and Armstrong added 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Kelvin Waldon chipped in 9 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks for the Bears, who travel to Division B foe Riverdale Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Spalding was led by Alex Bonner with 9 points, while Brittian and Markee Dickerson tallied 8 points each for the Jags, who played Division A foe Stockbridge Saturday evening in a makeup game and travel to North Clayton Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.