Gray Collegiate repeats as Class 2A boys’ basketball champion
Defending Class 2A boys’ basketball champion Gray Collegiate saved its best effort for the final game of the 2018-19 season Saturday at Colonial Life Arena.
Outscoring Lower State champion opponent Andrew Jackson 29-1 in the fourth quarter, the War Eagles came away with a resounding 79-38 victory to claim a second straight Class 2A title.
“We were number one at the beginning of the season and I’m sitting back and we’re number one at the end of the season,” Gray Collegiate head coach Dion Bethea said. “We embraced the challenge. We knew everybody was gunning for us and give us their best shot. Andrew Jackson gave us their best shot in the first half and that’s what our kids at halftime. We just saw their best basketball, they still hadn’t seen ours and we went out there and performed.”
Senior Tommy Bruner scored a game-high 19 points and dished out six assists and Jalil Robinson added 15 points and five steals for Gray Collegiate (21-10), who won its ninth straight game. He, along with Jalen DeLoach, who had five blocked shots, and Dallaz Corbitt, each collected 9 rebounds and cousin Khalil, finished with 12 points despite foul trouble.
“I know I went out with two fouls, Coach (Bethea) just told me to stay in the game. Stay in the game. Then, Khalil went out with three fouls and that’s when we knew we had to depend on everybody. So everybody just stuck together and everybody picked one another up and even if both of us had fouled out of the game, we still had confidence that we were going to win because every guy on this team can still play and lead us to victory.”
Bruner scored Gray Collegiate’s first five points during the team’s 10-0 run to open the game.
Foul trouble for the War Eagles enabled the Volunteers to get back to within two points in the second quarter.
D.J. Ealey led Andrew Jackson with 10 of his team-high 15 points in the first half.
Andrew Jackson (17-6) got no closer the rest of the way. Bruner answered with seven straight points during a 9-2 run to put Gray Collegiate up 32-21 and it entered the lockerroom with a 34-26 advantage.
The War Eagles dominated the second half, outscoring the Volunteers 45-13 and holding them to 4-19 shooting from the field and 0-6 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, back-to-back three-pointers by Bruner and Khalil Robinson pushed the lead to 62-38 with four minutes left and the War Eagles fans in attendance were starting the “back-to-back” chant.
“When we were in the back, Coach (Bethea) was telling us how good their defense was,” Jalil Robinson said. “Everybody was saying they play better defense than us. We just had to go out there and showed them that we play defense, too. It’s all on us. So, I went out there, we went out there, we played together, we played our butts off. I love the way we played.”