At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, First Presbyterian Christian Academy senior center Ahman Muhammad had two inches and at least 40 pounds on Bulloch Academy’s Hunter Perry.
But the Gator sophomore had agility and quickness on his side as he scored 17 points to overshadow the mammoth Highlander and put his squad on the brink of pulling off another upset of the Class AA powerhouse. But FPCA was able to withstand a late fourth-quarter run and take a 49-43 victory Monday night.
In the early game, junior Ashley Burke scored a season-high 23 points, including five three-pointers, as the Lady Gators demolished the Lady Highlanders 65-16 to run their record to 11-0.
On Friday, the Gators nipped the Highlanders, who have played for the Class AA state championship for five straight years, 49-48 in the opening game of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Lyons. BA head coach Chandler Dennard prepared his troops for an all-out frontal assault of revenge from the Highlanders. As the Hinesville team warmed up, the smart money was on the bigger and stronger visitors.
Perry was dwarfed in the middle by Muhammad but he held his own and battled hard against the bigger man. The Gators spread the floor to slow down the fast-paced Highlanders and were down by just a bucket, 14-12, at the end of the opening quarter. Muhammad had seven of his team-high 13 points.
BA senior Ivan Chen popped a jumper from the paint to open the second quarter. Junior Will Rushing grabbed a loose ball and fired a pass to Perry under the basket for an easy bucket and a 16-14 lead. The Gators (2-4) controlled the tempo of the game and play tight defense. Still, First Presbyterian took a 20-18 lead at the half.
The lead changed hands numerous times in the third. BA went on a 7-2 run on a great series of defensive steals and transition baskets to take a 28-25 lead. Senior Ja’Darius Smith drilled two treys. He had 13 points on the night.
But FPCA (3-1) came right back, revving up their offense for a 10-2 run and a 35-30 lead. BA cut it to one, 35-34, but FPCA bomber George Mitchell hit a trey at the buzzer for a 38-34 lead.
In the final period, it was the visitors who slowed down the game and pulled out to a five-point lead, 41-36, with four minutes remaining. Smith drilled another three-pointer to trim the lead to 41-39 but FPCA got two consecutive buckets for a 45-39 lead with 1:40 left.
BA junior Smith Reeves pounded a three-pointer with 57.1 seconds, cutting the lead to three 45-42. Good defense led the Gators to a jump-ball situation and the arrow pointed to the home bench with 42.5 left. BA came down the court and worked the ball around the perimeter for a three-point shot. But Smith missed the opportunity with 25 seconds left and things went south from there.
Dennard was whistled for a technical foul with 19.3 left and the Highlanders hits four-of-five free throws to clinch the game.
In the girls’ game, Burke and junior forward Pate Lomax were unstoppable in the opening quarter. Burke had 12 and Lomax had 11 of her 15. Bulloch took a 27-4 lead after the first eight minutes and a 45-8 advantage at the half. The Lady Gators led 61-10 after three quarter. In the fourth, BA put five eighth graders on the floor in the mercy-rule quarter.
Bulloch travels to Stillmore Friday to battle cross-county rival David Emanuel Academy.