Athens Christian did just that along with a hefty helping of William Jackson as the Eagles nipped North Cobb Christian 78-76 in the Class A Private School state quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Jackson scored 36 points and hit a pair of free throws with 3.8 seconds left to push the Eagles into the state semifinals for the second straight season.
Athens Christian (24-4) will play either Greenforest Christian (22-4) or Calvary Day (20-8) at 8:30 p.m. on Friday at Kennesaw State.
“It feels so good,” Athens Christian guard DeMarcus Evans said. “The preparation we had last year going to the semifinals made us ready. We got great experience from the players last year like (Zach) Lillie and (Zack) Resop and that helped us this day.”
Athens Christian trailed most of the game and was down by 21 early in the second half. But Jackson scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to help Athens Christian come back. The game turned when Evans and James Howell drew charges in the last minute that enabled Athens Christian to take the late lead.
“We had to have more than just (Jackson) step up,” Link said. “We had to have other guys step up and they did that. We took six charges. That was the key and all that is, is heart. We played with a lot of heart tonight. We’ve got to win with all of it.”
Demetrius McWhorter scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds for Athens Christian. Marcus Mattox scored nine points, Evans hit a late layup and scored eight points.
North Cobb Christian
(22-5) took a 74-65 lead when Kendall Crute hit a 3-pointer with about 2 minutes left. But Jackson went on a personal 7-0 run with a driving layup and a pair of 3-pointers to pull the Eagles within 74-73 with 1:10 left.
Crute finished with 27 points for North Cobb Christian. Hunter Ware added 16, Stephon Jelks and Elijah Weems each had 11 and Hulian Terrell added 10.
Crute hit a pair of free throws to give North Cobb a 76-73 led. But Evans responded with a driving layup to pull the Eagles within 76-75 with less than a minute left.
The game turned around when Evans drew a charge to give Athens Christian possession. He hit 1 of 2 from the line to tie the game 76-76 with 44 seconds left.
“Coach Link has been on me to get a charge all year,” Evans said. “He wouldn’t leave me alone about it so I decided to step up and get one.”
On North Cobb Christian’s next possession, Howell took a charge in the lane to give Athens Christian the ball with about 18 seconds left. Jackson was fouled and hit a pair from the line. Crute missed a jumper at the buzzer to end the game.