Coming into the game, the two teams were tied for first in the region.
Griffin Christian (16-6 overall, 7-1 region) extended its season-beat win streak to nine games, while Arlington (15-3, 6-2) had a modest three-game win streak snapped.
While the score may have gotten close toward the end of the game, Griffin Christian played a near perfect quarter to start the game. The Crusaders scored eight straight points in the first minute and a half, culminating with an Amir Hightower three that sent the crowd into wild celebration.
As the game progressed, both teams were getting progressively more physical.
Tensions rung high.
At 4:46, the officials called a technical on Arlington’s Darius McNear following a hard foul by Griffin Christian. Ten seconds later, both teams were warned to separate after another tough play. There weren’t any more major problems for the rest of the game, but bodies hit the ground on several occasions, and the refs got their fair share of boos from the fired-up home crowd.
The Crusaders pushed the floor on most of the first quarter, with Aqil Gilani finishing on a lot of beautiful passes from the Griffin Christian guards. Going into the second quarter the Crusaders held a 25-14 lead but it slowed down to make sure fatigue wouldn’t be a factor in the second half.
Griffin Christian transitioned to the half-court game, but not before Hammond went coast-to-coast for a pull up jumper with 5:43 to go. He then scored on an uncontested layup to extend the lead 34-16.
With the slower pace Arlington came back, closing the gap to 43-33 heading into the locker rooms.
The third played out much like the second, with a slower game and less scoring. Junior Wil Savage made an impact with several high intensity plays, but the Crusaders faced trouble when Hammond was pulled towards the end of the quarter because of foul trouble.
Instead of giving up their lead, Griffin Christian flourished thanks to great ball control and excellent shooting from guards Hightower and Aaron McCray.
In the fourth, Arlington started pushing back.
The Crusader possessions started getting longer, and the Eagles started playing the foul game.
Thanks to clutch scoring from Arlington’s Trenton Craig, the Eagles stayed in it to the final seconds.
The match finally ended when Hightower pushed the ball past half court, where he scored an uncontested layup with 10 seconds left. With that, the score was numerically out of reach.
Griffin Christian’s major contributors include: Hightower with 18 points; McCray with 10 points, six assists, and eight rebounds; Aqil Gilani with 10 points and three rebounds and Taylor Dunn with 10 and four.
The Crusaders’ next game will be at 7 p.m. Monday at home against non-region opponent Solid Rock Academy.