The First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlander boys’ basketball team will play for the Georgia Independent School Association Class AA state title Saturday after beating Griffin Christian, 86-78, on Wednesday at Mercer University in Macon.
The Highlanders (23-2) trailed Griffin until a rally in the fourth quarter gave FPCA the win.
Highlanders Wallace Smith and Miguel Pineda scored 26 points apiece in the contest. Frederick Heaggans chipped in 14 points. Ahman Muhammad added six points, and Domonique Kirkley and Richard Smith each scored five points.
The Highlanders have one final hurdle to clear in Furtah Prep, whom they play at 5 p.m. Saturday in Macon. The Acworth private school holds an impressive 20-4 overall record and was 7-0 in Region 6-AA.
“Furtah has some nice size and a couple of decent guards,” FPCA head coach Shane Smith said. “This should be a good game.”
FPCA has won three Class AA state trophies, including back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009 under head coach Darrell West and another in 2010 under head coach David Jones.
FPCA played methodically and, on most occasions, have come from behind throughout the tournament so far. The Highlanders cleared the first hurdle when they beat Windsor Academy, 81-60, on Feb. 27. Last Saturday, FPCA had a strong fourth-quarter comeback to eke out a 69-65 win over Terrell Academy. That set up Wednesday’s game against Griffin.
In July 2013, the FPCA boys suffered the biggest loss of their high-school basketball careers when coach and mentor Ernie Walthour was killed during an alleged armed robbery. What could have been a blow to the Highlanders’ basketball program instead became a renewed determination to carry on Walthour’s legacy.
FPCA appointed Smith, Walthour’s friend, as the new head coach. He and the players vowed to do the best they could to make Walthour proud.
“I am really excited for the kids and our program,” Smith said. “This one is for Ernie.”