But top-ranked North Cobb Christian's firepower eventually proved to be too much Friday as the host Eagles pulled away with a big third quarter and went on to win the second battle between the Region 6A (A) rivals, 65-49.
In their first meeting, North Cobb Christian (21-0, 5-0) edged ninth-ranked Mount Paran (16-4, 2-3) by a 59-51 score Jan. 3 - still the only time this season North Cobb Christian has failed to win by a double-digit margin.
The Eagles made sure the outcome wouldn't be as close this time around as they outscored Mount Paran 27-11 in the third quarter to break open what was a close game.
"I felt very good that we didn't quit," North Cobb Christian coach Greg Matta said. "There were some times when we were ahead, and they would go on runs, but our guys kept their composure. I was very pleased in the second half how we kept our composure."
Stephon Jelks scored 16 of his 23 points in the third quarter to fuel North Cobb Christian's surge, while Dauson Womack added 15 points for the game.
Armani Moore scored 30 of Mount Paran's 49 points, including all 11 of the Eagles' points in the third quarter.
It appeared that North Cobb Christian would be on its way to putting the game away at the start as the Eagles stormed out to an 11-0 lead.
Mount Paran was able to weather that storm, however, as it responded with a 12-0 run to take a 12-11 lead.
North Cobb Christian led 14-12 at the end of the first quarter and then began to build its lead up again early in the second quarter, going up 22-15 with 5:21 remaining in the first half.
But Mount Paran had an answer once again with an 8-2 run that cut North Cobb Christian's lead to 24-23 with 2:50 left. Again, however, the host Eagles withstood the challenge with a 3-pointer by Hunter Ware and a jumper by Jelks putting them up 29-23. They then held on to take a 30-27 advantage into halftime.
Jelks helped North Cobb Christian explode out of the gate at the beginning of the second half as he scored eight points in the first couple of minutes to fuel a 13-2 run.
He started things out with a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Corey Harris, and he hit a 3-pointer to increase North Cobb Christian's lead to 35-27 with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Moore scored on a layup to help Mount Paran cut North Cobb Christian's advantage to 35-29 with 6:11 left, but Jelks followed up with another 3-pointer to push the advantage back up to 38-29 with 6:00 left, and the Eagles went on to lead 43-29 with 4:00 left.
"We had runs in the first half, and they had runs - we knew they would make a run," Matta said. "In the third quarter, we came back and we had to execute a little better. In the first half, we were just jacking 3s. I had to call a timeout and say, 'Here's the ball, let's get it in. It's not, 'first guy, touch it, shoot it.''
"So, I really believe, in the second half, we got the ball in the paint and we attacked the glass, got some offensive rebounds and that's how you have to start - inside out. In the third quarter, the defense stepped up a little bit and I just think that, in the third quarter, our execution was just a little better than in the first half."
North Cobb Christian would go on to lead by as much as 21 points later in the third quarter and would end the period ahead 57-38.
The Eagles maintained their double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter, with Mount Paran getting no closer than 15 points.
"I thought we did an unbelievable job in the first half," Mount Paran Christian Scott Varner said. "They went on three huge runs, and we withstood all three of them. But, in the third quarter, they took it to us and we got caught in their game - the one thing we say we didn't want to do. I thought we did a phenomenal job of keeping the tempo where we wanted it, and they got it rolling in the third quarter. They got it to 10 and it was like we couldn't find a way to slow it back down again. They took it to us, and that's why they're the No. 1 team in the state."