MCDONOUGH — It took a quarter for the Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy Chargers to regain the form they showed in the Region 5 A-Private championship game during Thursday’s Class A-Private second round matchup against Wesleyan.
The second-seeded Chargers overcame an early deficit behind a 22-12 advantage in the second quarter en route to a 60-46 win over the Wolves at ELCA. The Chargers will play Greenforest, the team they beat for the region championship, next week in the Elite Eight.
“It’s amazing, amazing for our school and our kids, just amazing,” head coach Derrick Mason said. “For never having been before to the Georgia High School Association tournament, we’re making history game after game and possession after possession. I’m very pleased with that.”
Thursday’s game was the first time that ELCA had played since Feb. 10, and it showed in the early going. The Chargers started slow after the week-plus layoff, and Wesleyan got enough offense from Grant Summers to take an early lead at 10-9. Carter Davis nailed a three-pointer just before the buzzer to put the Wolves up 15-11 after one quarter.
Mason said he thought his team’s early struggles were due in large part to rust.
“I think that was a big part of it, being out for so long,” Mason said. “We’ve been grinding for so long and playing three games in a week and then not playing one for almost two weeks was tough. In the second quarter I thought we picked up our stride.”
After turning the ball over seven times in the first period, ELCA cleaned up its offense and scored 22 points to Wesleyan’s 12 in the second period. K.J. Jones made three shots from behind the arc in the period, including two to begin the quarter to tie the game at 17-all.
Mason said Jones’ three-point marksmanship adds a different dimension to ELCA’s offense.
“It’s big-time. Last year we made 36 threes on the season and we have K.J., who is a phenomenal shooter, shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc,” Mason said. “He works his tail off. He comes in at 6 a.m. and gets up shots and it pays off.”
Region 5 A-Private Player of the Year Malachi Rhodes scored his first points of the game at the 5:40 mark to end a Wesleyan run, which keyed ELCA’s own 6-0 run. Jamaine Mann’s dunk with 4:00 minutes left in the half put the Chargers up 23-22.
ELCA extended the lead to five points at the 1:40 mark after a thunderous dunk by Rhodes. Wesleyan answered with a basket, but Trevon Reddish drained a three-pointer right before the buzzer to send ELCA into the locker room up 33-27.
Wesleyan got as close as seven points in the second half, but never truly threatened to recapture the lead. ELCA took a 44-37 lead into the fourth quarter, and went up 56-42 with 3:00 minutes remaining on a layup by Mehki Cameron to all but close out the contest.
The Wolves finished the season with an overall record of 14-12. Mason was complimentary of coach Adam Griffin and the Wesleyan program after the game.
“They are probably the best-coached team we’ve faced this year,” Mason said. “I have a ton of respect for him as a coach. That’s why I probably watched 20 hours of film on them because he is a very, very good coach.”
Mann led all scorers with 16 points and eight rebounds. Jones added 14 points, and Rhodes recorded 10 points and nine rebounds. Summers led Wesleyan with 19 points.
ELCA (26-3) will host Greenforest next week in the Elite Eight. The two teams played three times during the regular season, with the Chargers winning two of those contests, including a 66-54 win in the region championship game. Greenforest beat Stratford Academy 68-66 Thursday night.