DALTON — Joe Dix knew stopping Greater Atlanta Christian’s Malcolm Brogdon wouldn’t be easy.
He had no idea that it would be almost impossible.
Brogdon scored a game-high 33 points and pulled down 19 rebounds to lead GAC to a 65-52 come-from-behind win that ended East Hall’s run in the Class AA tournament Friday at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center.
“That’s what great players do,” Dix said of Brogdon’s performance. “He got rolling and everybody’s body language changed.”
Trailing 26-15 midway through the second quarter, the top-ranked Spartans (26-5) turned up the defensive intensity and cut the deficit to six points entering intermission.
Brogdon, a University of Virginia commitment, scored the final four points of the first half, and his two baskets to start the third quarter sparked a 7-0 run that gave GAC its first lead of the game.
“He’s an amazing athlete,” said East Hall senior Sterling Bailey, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds. “There’s a reason he’s going to Virginia, and I expect him to do wonderful things there.”
Brogdon lived up to the hype in the third quarter, as he scored nine points and pulled down seven rebounds. Combine that with the play of A.J. Davis, who scored 11 points with 10 rebounds before fouling out, and the Spartans were just too much for East Hall.
But that didn’t mean the Vikings (25-6) were overmatched. East Hall, which was the last Hall County team left in the state tournament, rallied in the fourth quarter to cut a nine-point deficit to just two points with 2:16 left to play.
Needing to prolong the game as long as possible, the Vikings started fouling, and Brogdon made them pay by making 10-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes and 14-of-18 in the fourth quarter.
“I told them we had to play our best, and we didn’t,” Dix said. “I knew they would come after us.”
The Vikings started the game playing their best, and their 7-of-13 shooting performance propelled them to a 19-9 lead after the first quarter.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” Dix said.
J.C. Hampton sparked that great start by scoring six of his team-high 20 points. Hampton, who went 5-of-8 from 3-point range, kept the Vikings in the game before fouling out with 1:30 left to play.
“I told him tonight would be his coming out party,” Dix said. “He had a great year and deserves All-State recognition.”
Hampton will return next year, but the Vikings lose four seniors off a squad Dix thought was capable of winning a state title.
“I hope the kids aren’t satisfied with making it this far,” Dix said. “We’re used to winning this game and that’s disappointing.”
The Vikings went almost four minutes without scoring and had one more turnovers (seven) than they did points in the third quarter.
“Coach always talks about lulls and how we can’t have them,” Bailey said. “It finally caught up to us.”
GAC advances to the semifinals and will play the winner of Swainsboro/Thomasville at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Macon.