In 2007, the Bethesda Blazers took the First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlanders out of the state title run by beating them in the final four. In 2008 and 2009, both teams battled for region leads and for the Georgia Independent State Association Class A title. The Highlanders brought home the trophy both years.
On Saturday, the teams met for the first time this season at the
St. James Sports Center. Both were undefeated in Region 2-A region and both were clamoring for the top spot and bragging rights.
As the ’Lander fans roared and cheered on the home stand, the visiting Bethesda Blazer fans cheered on the other side as the boys went at it on the court. The Highlander finished on top, 64-56.
Two minutes ticked off the clock before the Highlanders netted a point after AJ Ansley was fouled. By the end of the first quarter, FPCA held a 16-9 lead.
Blazer Ben Carter sank a rock from the trey line twice in the first half and Duane Chisholm hit one in the third to bring the Blazers within 2.
But the Highlanders went on a scoring drive in the last three minutes of the third quarter. Ansley hit two trey shots. Jordan Johnson was 2 for 2 at the line. Michael Brown hit a 3-pointer, and Hakeem Golden got a bucket off the boards. As the third drew to a close, the Highlanders were up 52-38.
Bethesda’s Chisholm hit a 3-pointer. Ansley answered with one of his own. Blazer Brendon Carter hit another 3-pointer, but fouls sent Highlander DJ Felder to the line where he went 2 for 2. Johnson was fouled and hit 1 of 2. The Blazers fouled Brown and he went 2 for 2. Felder took an inside pass from Johnson for a layup and Golden hit another shot from the board, keeping the Hinesville boys 8 points up for a win.
Ansley ended the evening with 22 points, Felder had 14 and Brown netted 12.
"We knew they were going to be a great team," Highlander coach David Jones said. "They are talented and well coached and they took us off the dribble all night long. They out-rebounded us for most of the game and the only thing we did right was to be fortunate enough to come out on top at the end of the scoreboard when the smoke cleared."
The coach said he was glad to get this game out of the way and looks forward to the challenge when the teams meet again in two weeks in Savannah.
"I expect my guys to come out playing," said Blazers coach Clevan Thompson. "We did well getting back into the game, but we made a couple of bone-headed mistakes throughout the middle of the ball game. But you know it was a lesson well learned. We’ll be better next time."
The Highlanders are 20-1 overall and 5-0 in the region. The Blazers are 17-3 overall and 3-1 in the region.
This week, the FPCA boys play Citizen’s Christian on Friday night and host Sherwood on Saturday for senior day and homecoming at St. James. Next Tuesday, they head back to Bethesda.