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ATLANTA – The Meadowcreek Mustangs only got ‘one’ against Norcross this season but they got the ‘one’ that mattered most.
Paced by an unexpected but big-time offensive performance from senior Dequarius Nicholas (16 points, eight rebounds), the Mustangs avenged three losses to the Blue Devils this season but more importantly captured their first state title in program history with a 56-43 victory in the 2018 GHSA Class 7-A final at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion on March 10.
“This is great for this community,” Meadowcreek coach Curtis Gilleylen said. “Meadowcreek has been the underdog. Norcross has been running the basketball world for so long so it feels good. I compare it to a bully, and a bully been bullying everybody for so long, and then one day somebody got the courage to step up and check that bully.”
This game wasn’t just different from the prior two meetings because a championship was within reach but because there wasn’t a plethora of exciting plays (dunks and blocks) and not any game-winning shots at the buzzer by Kyle Sturdivant.
“The other games don’t mean anything to me right now,” Nicholas said. “This is the only game that matters. We’re just excited to get this one.”
However, the contest was tight throughout (15 lead changes and six ties) and heading for another unbelievable ending. But 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, Meadowcreek started to put this one away, eliminating the chance of falling victim to another agonizing defeat in the final seconds which would be viewed plenty of times on Instagram, Twitter and other forms of social media.
Jamir Chaplin (13 points) ignited the run with a layup to tie the score at 36, then seven seconds Nicholas converted a layin to push the Mustangs in front for good.
“I’m so proud of that kid,” said Gilleylen of Nicholas. “All season long guys said we didn’t have the guard play. Every team we played, we didn’t have the guard play but tonight he showed up and showed out. I’m so proud of Dequarius and he’s college material.”
After Brandon Boston (13 points) split a pair of free throws to trim the margin to one, Cory Hightower (six points, 11 rebounds, four assists) made a layup before passing to Chaplin for a breakaway, two-handed dunk and a 42-37 score with 4:01 to go.
“Everybody notices our Big 3–Jamir, Amari [Kelly] and Cory, and they always talk down on our guard play so me and Kedrick Green had to step up and play a big role,” Nicholas said.
Nearly two minutes later and following a pair of foul shots by Nicholas, Chaplin finished another possession with a slam for a nine-point cushion with 1:56 to go and the Mustangs cruised the rest of the way to their historic victory.
Kelly, who plans to suit up for Duquesne University in the fall, had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in his final high school game.
Sturdivant collected 14 points and seven rebounds for the Blue Devils, who shot just 1-of-12 from the field in the fourth quarter.
“We knew them inside and out,” Gilleylen said. “I actually didn’t have to watch any video this week. I didn’t have to go back and scout. We knew exactly what they were going to try to do. We slowed them down as much as possible. We didn’t let Kyle get in the middle or the shooters get open shots and came out with the W.”