Therrell High School has been around for 60 years. It was one of the few Atlanta Public Schools that had never won a basketball championship. Until Thursday afternoon.
The No. 4-ranked Panthers outlasted No. 3 Vidalia 51-48 to claim the Class AA boys championship at the Macon Coliseum, a victory that coach Eddie Johnson claimed for his community.
“This is for the school, this is for the city,” Johnson said. “These boys were all born and raised in southwest Atlanta and they represented the school back home. They did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Senior Robbie Armbrester said, “This is very big for the organization.”
Armbrester scored 10 points, but two of his baskets came during a fourth-quarter spurt that allowed the Panthers to grab the momentum and take a lead that Vidalia could never overcome.
The first was an and-one set up by a nice pass from Roman Son that upped Therrell’s lead to five points early in the final quarter. The other was a dunk off a missed shot where Armbrester followed with a resounding slam.
Therrell led by six points but could not shake Vidalia. The Panthers closed the gap to 49-46 when Anthony Jones drained a 3-pointer. After an exchange of turnovers, Son made the second of two free throws to put Therrell ahead 50-46. Vidalia then made it 50-49 on Mark Wardaw’s 3 with 4.8 seconds.
Vidalia appeared to have life when it stole the inbounds pass, but could not control it as it bounced out of bounds. Therrell was able to inbound the ball to Cameron Fortson, who was fouled with 0.3 seconds. He made the first one and missed the second, but Vidalia didn’t have a chance to get off a final shot.
“They’re a very yard team, very competive,” Armbrester said. “I just tried to be calm and collected, let my teammates get me the ball, rebounds … do what the coach says.”
Therrell (26-8) was led by Zyquan Morton with 19 points, which included three 3-point baskets. Sun also scored 10 points and had a game-high five assists.
Vidalia (27-6) was led by Toriun Mull with 14 points and five rebounds. Anthony Jones and Wardlaw each scored 10 points. Galen White also had five rebounds.
“Vidalia payed a great game,” Johnson said. “They neutralized my big men and luckily my shooters came around. They made somebody else step up and Morton really came through in the clutch for us.”
Johnson expected the Panthers to make a run at the title this season, so he set up a difficult schedule for the team to navigate.
“We’re battle tested,” he said. “I made sure the schedule was hard. We played a lot of AAAAA and AAAAAA teams. For moments like this, they were mentally already prepared to go out and sustain it. I’m very proud of how the boys played.”
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