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NORCROSS (GA) – The Meadowcreek Mustangs are done playing on their home floor but not finished with basketball since a spot in the Final Four awaits them.
With Meadowcreek’s lead slipping away, Jamir Chaplin (23 points) stepped up to steer the momentum back in his team’s favor on the way to a Mustangs’ 67-57 home win over Campbell in the 2018 GHSA Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals on February 28.
“This was a hard-fought victory,” Meadowcreek coach Curtis Gilleylen said. “I’ve been coaching against coach [James] Gwyn for 10 plus years. I know he is always going to have his guys ready to play. They are going to play hard. They are going to play with heart and guts and that is what they did. They were able to outscrap us a little bit to stay in the game but we were able to overcome at the end.”
Cory Hightower had 18 points and nine rebounds and fellow senior Amari Kelly added 14, 11 and five blocks for Meadowcreek, which will face Grayson at Buford City Arena on March 3.
After the Mustangs stretched the margin out to double digits in the second quarter and comfortably held it there for a while, they seemed on the way to a non-suspenseful ending, which fans of the winning team always prefer. But the Spartans opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run for a 50-49 score following a jumper by senior Kiya Randolph (10 points) with 5:45 left.
To counter, Chaplin, who did most of his scoring in the lane, drained a baseline jumper, rebuilding lead to three. Then after a wild sequence near midcourt, Kelly picked up the loose ball and fired a long pass to Chaplin, who finished the play with a wide-open dunk and a 54-49 advantage.
Kelly added a layup with just under four minutes remaining to continue widening the margin, and dunks by Kelly and Chaplin offset tough layins by Terrell Burden (25 points) to essentially seal the first trip to the state semifinals for Meadowcreek (23-6).
“I think they ran out of gas a little bit,” Gilleylen said. “One thing we pride ourselves in is conditioning. I’ve been watching film on them and I saw in the fourth qurter they were grabbing their shorts. I think our size eventually wore them down.”
Emanuel Collier (nine points) made the most of his opportunities from 3-point range. He nailed three shots from the arc, including one to beat the halftime buzzer.
“This means a lot for this community,” Gilleylen said. “Meadowcreek has been kind of like the step-child program for years. Soccer kind of got it started last year and football kept it going with a playoff run and we are following right behind and want to make our mark as well and let it be known that we are a premier program here as well.”
Donovan Grant scored 12 points and Brandon Deravine added 10 for Campbell (20-10).