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Gordon Lee boys edge Heritage in NGAC title game thriller

On the surface, the stat line for Anthony Peco in Saturday's North Georgia Athletic Conference championship game doesn't exactly jump out at you: one 3-pointer, two free throws, five total points.

But taken in context, it was the biggest, most important five points of Peco's young life and the biggest, most important five points by any GLMS Trojan basketball player in a long time.

A packed Gordon Lee Middle School gymnasium to watched Peco bury a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left to keep his team alive, and then watched him connect on what turned out to be the two game-winning free throws with just under 10 seconds to go as the Trojans claimed their first tournament title since 2012 with a thrilling 27-26 victory over Heritage.

"We know Heritage is a great team and that they are really well-coached," Gordon Lee head coach Bradley Floyd said. "We had to fight for this one, but this is what we wanted all year. These boys worked hard in practice every day and they really wanted it."

It was a low-scoring battle between the league's two division winners from the very opening tip.

The score was tied at eight midway through the second quarter when Bo Solmon dropped in a big 3-pointer to put the Trojans by three. Each team would add this one more basket in the first half and Gordon Lee would carry the three-point cushion, 13-10, into the locker room.

But a switch to a full-court press by the Generals began to give the Trojans problems in the second half. A steal on an inbound pass led to a bucket by Franklin Almonte Arias and Heritage would take its first lead, 14-13. The Generals would maintain the advantage and took a slim 19-17 lead into the fourth quarter.

Heritage looked inside to Nick Hanson, who hit two straight buckets in the paint to give the Generals their biggest lead of the day, 23-17, with just under four minutes to go. However, Gordon Lee would throw two long inbound passes to Jake Poindexter to beat the press and his two lay-ups pulled the Trojans back to within a point, 23-22, with 2:52 remaining.

The Generals called a timeout to regroup and stunned the Trojans when play resumed as Arias hit a fall-away 3-pointer to push their advantage back to four.

The score would stay 26-22 for nearly two full minutes as neither team could get anything to drop, either from the foul line or the floor.

That's when Peco struck.

His initial shot from the corner in front of his own bench fell off the mark, but after an offensive rebound by Gordon Lee, Peco found the ball in his hands once more and this time he drained a high, arcing 3-pointer to pull his team back within a point as the Gordon Lee side of the gym erupted.

Heritage would miss a foul shot, but Gordon Lee failed to capitalize on the other end, forcing the Trojans to foul once more with 12.7 seconds left. The gamble paid off as the Generals missed from the line again and this time it was Peco drawing the foul as he went high to corral the rebound.

A timeout was called, but the brief break had no effect as Peco stepped to the line and swished both free throws with 9.9 seconds to play to finally put Gordon Lee back in front and send the Trojans supporters into a state of delirium.

The Generals would get off one shot before the final horn, but Cooper Terry's off-balance runner in traffic only found the backboard and the Trojans were able to grab the loose ball as time expired.

"I gave (Peco) a hug afterward and told him he had ice in his veins,"

Floyd said. "It's stuff we practice every day and he really stepped up. He wanted the shots and he took them."

Poindexter, who scored his 500th career point early in the game, finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds to earn tournament MVP honors. Peco pulled down four boards to go with his five points. Logan Simerley had four points. Solmon finished with three and Will Carswell had one on a key free throw in the fourth.

Arias had 15 points to lead all scorers, while Hanson finished with six.

"This feels great and for me, it's all about God's glory," Floyd added. "He gives us this chance to come work every day. It's been a great opportunity for these kids and it was great to be able to get (a championship) back for our school.

"Plus, it feels pretty good to have won a (championship) banner here as a player and now to win one as the coach."

Dade County girls 34, Trion 22

Upset-minded Trion trailed Western Division champion Dade County by just two points at halftime, 17-15, and overcame a 2-point fourth quarter to pull back to within four points, 24-20, with six minutes to play.

But the Lady Wolverines would score 10 points in the fourth, all at the foul line, to hold the Lady Bulldogs at bay and win a second straight NGAC title in front of a standing-room-only crowd earlier in the day.

Kami Counts had nine points for Dade, followed by tournament MVP Jayda Wood and Claire Mullins with eight each. Bailey Davis finished with seven points.

Chloe Murdock had seven for Trion, followed by Jayce Helms with six and Summer Vaugh with five.

The 2016-2017 NGAC Basketball Award Winners