Both Athens Christian and North Cobb Christian reached unknown territory by advancing to the second round of the GHSA playoffs. Now, Athens Christian has gone a step further, advancing to the Elite 8 with a 77-68 win over North Cobb Christian.
“If anybody ever deserves it, these kids do. They are super young guys and I’m extremely proud,” said Athens Christian head coach Ron Link.
Both teams are led by transfer students from across the globe.
Milos Kleut came to North Cobb Christian from Georgia and led the team with 18 points.
Raymond Higgs, who transferred from the Bahamas, has led Athens Christian all season with 25.8 points per game, making him second in the state. Higgs finished with 19 points, eight assists, and four rebounds against North Cobb Christian. But it was another transfer student, David Mann from Germany, that led Athens Christian in scoring with 32 points and five assists.
Tied 21-21 with 4:40 remaining in the first half, Athens Christian went on a 13-5 run to end the half ahead 34-26.
North Cobb Christian quickly got within two, 36-34, before Higgs hit a three pointer. Athens Christian led 49-45 after three quarters. North Cobb Christian tied the game at 49 in the first 30 seconds before Athens Christian went on a final run to take a 58-51 lead with 4:47 remaining in the game.
North Cobb then began fouling Athens Christian, which finished 29 for 37 at the free throw line. Mann was 11 for 12 from the foul line including 9 for 10 in the fourth quarter.
“We got the right person at the free throw line,” said Link.
Mann, who once made 59 straight free throws in practice, wasn’t nervous about knocking down free throw after free throw or playing in the playoffs.
“It’s one of my biggest strengths and I know coach trusts me on the free throw line. We were confident. We practice here. It’s our gym. We don’t get nervous here,” said Mann.
Athens Christian will leave their gym to travel to Marietta to play Greenforest in the Elite 8 on Saturday at 5:30.
Wiley can be reached at email@example.com.