Class A Boys Private: St. Francis 96, Greenforest Christian 81

Usually, a team that disobeys its coach is not one you would think could win a state title. But St. Francis is the exception to that rule.

The Knights (29-3) stayed full throttle en route to a relatively easy 96-81 win over Greenforest in the Class A private school final, Saturday afternoon at the Macon Centerplex. The victory gave St. Francis its second state championship in as many years, and completed a sweep of the private school finals for the Alpharetta school as the girls edged Southwest Atlanta Christian at the buzzer prior to the boys' win.

While the girls won a low scoring nail bitter, 47-45, the boys seized control early and never let up, in spite of head coach Drew Catlett's desire to slow the pace a bit after the Knights built a comfortable lead.

"Our kids play at that tempo all the time and they have a lot of confidence in themselves to keep making shots," said Catlett, in his first season at the helm. "[In the third quarter] I wanted them to back off a little, but they just kept attacking."

The first wave, and the one that ended the game early for all intents and purposes, came midway through the first quarter. With the game tied at 7-7, St. Francis ended the period with a 17-8 run that featured four thunderous dunks, two of which came at the end of lob passes -- one from junior point guard Kobi Jordan-Simmons to senior Malik Beasley, the other from Senior Kaiser Gates to Jordan-Simmons. After the dust settled, St. Francis led 24-15.

Greenforest (27-2) which beat St. Francis in the 2013 title game, rallied and trimmed the gap to 38-35 early in the third quarter, after a bucket by junior guard John Ogwuche. But the Knights stepped on the gas again, this time with an 8-0 run, keyed by strong inside play from senior Josh Coleman and junior Chance Anderson. The duo neutralized the Eagles' big front line that features four players taller than 6-foot-5 in forwards Faisal Abdulmalik, Precious Ayah and Victor Enoh Power, along with center Ikey Obiagu. St. Francis out scored Greenforest in the paint, 36-22, and out rebounded the Eagles 39-35.

"I was a little worried about their size, but our bigs really stepped up," Catlett said. "Josh played super and I was really glad to see Anderson play as well as he did.

Midway through the third quarter and into the fourth, Greenforest got the deficit under single digits only once, as the Knights wouldn't let up. Gates said the 2013 title game loss to the Eagles played a role in that. Saturday was the first meeting between the two teams since that game.

"We thought about it a lot," said Gates, who finished with 23 points. "We knew we couldn't go 0-2 against them in championship games.

Beasley agreed to a certain extent.

"We wanted to get them back," said the senior, who also finished with 23 points. Jordan-Simmons led the Knights with 27. "But we also knew we had to keep our heads in this game, and keep attacking. Coach wanted us to slow it down,but he also said if we got easy drives to the basket to go ahead and take them, and so that's what we did."

St. Francis    24  14  24  34    96

Greenforest  15    17  21  28    81

St. Francis:  Kobi Jordan-Simmons 27, Malik Beasley 23, Kaiser Gates 23, Chance Anderson 11, Josh Coleman 7, Wallace Tucker 3, Will Richter 2

Greenforest:  John Ogwuche 28, Justin Forest 19, Justin Ravenel 17, Faisal Abdulmalik 8, Mo Abdulsalem 4, Victor Enoh Power 2, Ikey Obiagu 2, Precious Ayah 1