“I felt like we came out and knew our game plan more today,” Johnson said. “We also came out with a chip on our shoulder and that was the difference.”
The game was chip-worthy because Berkmar had taken the three previous meetings – a one-point and two-point win during the regular season and a six-point win in the Region 7 championship game. But in each of those games, one or the other had an important player missing. This was the first game with both sides at full strength.
“We played them three times, but we really didn’t play them three times,” McMillan said. “The game plan tonight was pack it in and make them hit jump shots. We knew they were going to attack the glass.”
Norcross (26-6) also got 14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks from Jerry Deng and 13 points and five rebounds from Samarion Bond.
Berkmar (26-5) was led by Ewin with 13 points and eight rebounds, Jameel Rideout with 13 points, and Blaine with 12 points, two assists and two steals. But Ewin and Rideout both picked up their fourth personal fouls in the third quarter and Ewin eventually fouled out. The result was Berkmar’s second straight loss in the championship game; the Patriots were beaten by Milton last year.
The other burning question was McMillan’s beard, which ranks somewhere between the Gorton’s fisherman and David Letterman circa-2022. He started growing the beard during the pandemic, and his wife Cathy is eager to see it go. McMillan thought so, too. But winning a championship with a beard almost demands it stays put.
“I think personally it looks good,” he said. “I think it looks good in pictures and we definitely had some mojo somewhere …”