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FAIRBURN (GA) – Football is often identified with being a ‘Game of Inches’ but basketball has its moments as well. The Arlington Christian Eagles experienced that reality in one of the worst ways.
After overcoming a deficit which was as large as double digits for a good portion of the contest, the Eagles were edged 69-68 at home by Griffin Christian in a GICAA (Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association) game on January 24.
Displaying his impact on both ends of the court, Femi Akinola finished with 23 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks and four steals. Fellow seniors Jamar Little (seven assists) and Dexter Redding (three steals) added 14 points apiece.
“Femi leads the state in rebounds and blocks at least according to MaxPreps,” Arlington Christian coach Mike Cerezola said. “The thing I love about him is that he can guard anybody out there I can put him on a guard if I want to.”
“[Femi] has a big presence on the court,” Little said. “He helps us out a lot rebounding. Offensively can’t nobody stop him but once he gets that mindset that can’t nobody stop him he will be even better than what he is now.”
Javon Thompson (22 points, 12 boards) and G’Nai Foster (17 points, six rebounds) led the Crusaders to their second win of the season against the Eagles.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Arlington trailed by 13 points but rallied all the way back to tie the score at 62 with less than two minutes to go when Redding turned a steal into a short jumper. But with 1:26 left, Joshua Burkett (five assists) nailed a jumpshot to put Griffin back in front.
Then nearly a minute later, Thompson pulled down an offensive rebound on Burkett’s missed foul shot and scored a layup for a 66-62 score.
“[Thompson] makes them so tough,” Cerezola said. “He’s what makes them go. He’s kind of like Femi. He can do it all–guard anyone. He’s obviously an athlete. He got up there and dunked twice tonight.”
But Little kept the Eagles close with back-to-back layups before Thompson sank a pair of foul shots with 12 seconds remaining for a 69-66 margin.
Following a timeout, the Eagles knew they had to go for the tying 3-point bucket. Little received the inbounds pass, quickly made his way through the Crusaders’ press and pulled up from the top of the key. The shot was a perfect swish with five seconds left and the game appeared tied but Little had a toe on the line.
“In the fourth quarter, I felt like we started playing,” Cerezola said. “Unfortunately we had to climb up the hill a little too much to fight back. A foot was on the line and what not but I told them they made me very proud in the fourth quarter.”
“I didn’t know right away,” Little said. “I thought I was behind the line. My coach told me my foot was on the line so that is bad court awareness on my part but we should have come out in the first quarter and really put it to them because we had more depth. But we played around and that is what playing around gets you, losing by one point.”
The Crusaders zipped the ball to each other to avoid a foul before time expired.
“Jamar was clutch but he’s got to get going again,” Cerezola said. “He was up here at the beginning of the year and trying to back there. Hopefully that shot gets him going.”