The Darlington boys turned in a complete performance to roll past Pepperell 62-38 in the semifinals of the 67th Annual Christmas Tournament on Thursday night at Armuchee High School.
Darlington advances to face Chattooga in Friday’s championship game at 7:30 p.m.
The Tigers controlled from the tip, relying on a stifling defense that held the Dragons to just three made field goals in the first half.
“My biggest thing with them is that the best way to find the floor is being able to guard,” Darlington coach Nathan West said. “I just think that with them, they want to come out and set the tone and we set it with our defense. You never know how the ball is going to bounce, but defense travels, so we try to make sure we’re going to come out and guard every night.”
Darlington led 19-4 at the end of the first frame and 38-13 at the halftime break, consistently pushing the ball in transition and taking advantage of Pepperell miscues.
“We would have bad possessions here which would lead to them having easy transition buckets--kind of like the way we want to play, but they did it to us,” Pepperell coach Zach Mendence said. “They played well, we just didn’t have an answer.”
Patrick Shelley paved the way for the second night in a row, scoring a game-high 16 points and pulling down seven rebounds, but Darlington’s main engine on offense was their unselfishness. The ball whipped around on the Tigers’ side of the floor, more often than not ending up in the hands of an open shooter.
“We got a lot of guys that bring a lot to the table on different nights,” West said. “My biggest thing with these guys is just being ready to play when your number is called, being ready to go in there and play to your strengths.”
Szymon Paluch had 10 points, Braden Bell added nine, and D.J. Johnson chipped seven points for Darlington.
For Pepperell, point guard Kemp Edge turned in a solid showing, knocking down three 3’s on the way to a team-high 13 points. Clayton King chipped in 8 points and Ben Whelchel added 6 for the Dragons.
Darlington’s bout with Chattooga for the Gold Ball will take place in Armuchee’s new gymnasium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Darlington is playing for its first Gold Ball since 2006. The Tigers won in back-to-back years in 2005 and ‘06.
Chattooga is looking for its first Gold Ball in 34 years. The Indians claimed the top prize back in 1986.