Class A Private boys: Greenforest 61, King’s Ridge 52

Greenforest won the Class A Boys basketball championship on March 3, 2022, with a 61-52 win over King's Ridge at the Macon Coliseum.

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Greenforest won the Class A Boys basketball championship on March 3, 2022, with a 61-52 win over King's Ridge at the Macon Coliseum.

Macon - Most of the focus on the Greenforest basketball team is on the big guys, the two seven-footers on the roster. But in the Class A Private state championship game, it was the Forrest and not the trees that made the difference.

Jalen Forrest, a 6-foot-2 senior, produced 26 points and helped the No. 1-ranked Eagles outlast No. 3 Kings Ridge Christian 61-52 on Saturday to secure the school’s fourth state title.

Forrest was 11-for-22 from the field and added six rebounds, two steals and one assist. He scored eight points in the decisive fourth quarter.

It was a proud day for the Forrest family. Father James won a state championship when he played at Southside Atlanta in 1990 before enjoying a stellar career at Georgia Tech. Brother Justin was part of back-to-back state championship teams at Greenforest in 2016 and 2017 before putting together an award-winning resume at Appalachian State. Jalen Forrest was running out of time.

“I had to win. I had to,” said Forrest, who shared a long embrace with his father when the game was over. “Justin was just coaching me up. I’m just so proud of my team, so proud of myself. We deserve this.”

Fellow senior Florian Tenebay added 17 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals, meaning the little guys accounted for 43 of the team’s 61 points.

“They’ve been carrying us all year,” coach Rory Griffin said. “They’re the ones that carry us game-after game, when the game is on the line. We know if we put it in Jalen’s hands or Florian’s hands something good is going to happen.”

The big guys certainly had their impact on the game, too. D.K. Dut scored only six points, but had 11 rebounds and two blocks. Gai Chol Atern had four points and four rebounds.

King’s Ridge, despite a sizeable size disadvantage at each position, was able to stay in the game with its outside shooting. Its success in the first quarter forced Greenforest to switch to a zone defense earlier than Griffin desired and the long wingspan of the defenders made it more difficult for the Tigers to get open looks.

“We had to go to a 3-2 and we had to squeeze the middle because that’s where they would be most effective,” Griffin said. “They were using (Micah Hoover) as a decoy and he proved hie could hit the shot. But I’ll play the percentages. That’s what I had to do.”

Greenforest opened the final quarter with a 43-42 lead and King’s Ridge tied it 50-50 on a Liam Thomas 3-pointer. That’s when Forrest and Tenebay scored field goals and Jaylen Peterson got a slam off a steal to open a six-point lead. King’s Ridge never got closer than four points.

Greenforest (28-4) finished the games on a 23-game winning streak that included victories over Pace Academy, Grayson and 3A state champion Cross Creek.

King’s Ridge (28-5) got 18 points from Isaac Martin, all of them on 3-point baskets. Hoover sored 16 on 8-for-11 shooting with seven rebounds and three assists. The Tigers made 10 baskets from distance in concluding the school’s best season. King’s Ridge had not won a playoff game until this year.