The area high school basketball season reached a fever pitch in February 2012, with all the schools participating in their respective region tournaments throughout the state.
While several of the teams didn’t make it far in the tournaments, two area teams clinched state playoff berths: The Griffin Christian boys and the Griffin High boys. The Griffin Christian Crusaders made a serious run in the GISA Class AAA state playoffs after losing twice in the GISA Region 2-AAA Tournament.
The No. 3 state-ranked Crusaders started the state tournament as a low seed, wounded and crestfallen after two rough region tourney losses. But the days off did GC well, as players healed and came in with a renewed focus and it showed on Feb. 16. The Crusaders blitzed Deerfield-Windsor 63-46 in the opening-round game at Stratford Academy in Macon behind a double-double by Austin Gill, who scored 23 points and snagged 18 rebounds. On Feb. 18, the Crusaders ran roughshod over Westminster-Augusta 60-38 in the state quarterfinals thanks to Gill again (21 pts, 13 rebs) to reach the GISA Class AAA state semifinals for the first time in the modern history of the school.
Griffin Christian then faced a familiar foe in the GISA AAA Final Four on Feb. 23 — the Mt. de Sales Cavaliers, who beat GC in the first round of the region tournament in controversial fashion, 61-58. It was the two teams’ fourth meeting of the season and it turned out to be one of their best games yet.
GC led at the half, but the lead changed several time in the second half. The Cavs tied the game twice in the fourth quarter, at 43-all with 5:00 left and 54-all with 15.2 seconds left. That set the stage for senior Matthew Hammond to put the Crusaders in the GISA Class AAA state finals for the first time ever, sinking a jumper with 1.8 seconds left to win the game, 56-54. The win also gave GC its third straight 20-win season.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, they lost the state final game to Bethesda 71-46 on Feb. 25. They hung in with Bethesda until the third quarter when the Savannah team opened it up, taking a 51-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter and holding GC to 10 fourth-quarter points. Griffin Christian finished its greatest boys basketball season with a 20-8 record.
Other noteworthy local sports events in February:
*Spalding senior track and field standout Dominique Nock signs with USC-Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C.
*Griffin Bears basketball team clinches a state-playoff berth for the first time in five years.
*Eight Spalding High football players sign letters of intent to play college football in the fall.