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McConnell girls, Moore boys win Eastern Division hoops titles

LOGANVILLE -- Archer's varsity girls basketball team emerged as one of the county's top programs this season.

If Tuesday's Gwinnett County middle school basketball tournament is any indication, the Tigers will be able to keep their success rolling in the future.

McConnell Middle School, which feeds into Archer, defeated Shiloh 42-28 in the Eastern Division championship at Grayson High School.

"To go out and win a championship is great for our community," McConnell coach Chandler Deep said. "We haven't really had much adversity, but when we did today we played through it and that's the sign of a champion."

Moore Middle School had to hold off a second half rally by Five Forks in the boys game for a 55-50 win.

"They didn't give up and stayed in the game," Moore coach Terry Morris said.

The victories for McConnell and Moore put the programs into Thursday's championship game against the Western Division champions. McConnell will play Duluth, which defeated Twin Rivers 29-28, and Moore will play Hull, which defeated Osborne 59-26. Both games will be played at Grayson.

"I know they've got a great team," Morris said of Hull.

Moore, which feeds into Central Gwinnett, is in its second year of existence. The Black Knights were 2-10 last year and are 13-2 this year, which includes a loss to Five Forks earlier this season.

"It means a lot," Morris said of the championship. "This is the second year our school has been open. To win a championship is huge.

"I think it was big victory beating a team like them. They are very good and battled back."

It looked like Moore was going to cruise into the championship game with a 13-point lead at halftime. Five Forks' Donald Parham hit three 3-pointers in the period to put the Broncos back in the game.

"Those 3's, when they start falling, they don't stop," Morris said. "It was nerve- racking for me."

Parham hit his fifth 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to tie the game 39-39 with 5:25 left. Parham led Five Forks with 22 points.

Zach Cooks knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game with 3:51 to play to give Five Forks its first lead 44-41. Cooks finished with 12 points.

Nick Partlow hit a layup with 1:12 left and Moore never trailed again. Partlow led Moore with 22 points, including nine in the first quarter.

"He always picks up the scoring load," Morris said.

Abijah Walker added 18 points despite being in foul trouble and Jaylon Lawler had 10.

"Abijah is our heart and soul, our bread and butter," Morris said. "When we need a basket, we go to him."

Shiloh took a 6-1 lead in the first quarter of the girls game on Christia Little's assist to Sharai Lay. McConnell edged its way back in the game and began the second period with Linsey Marchese getting an easy basket under the hoop to tie the game. That began a 10-0 run for the Tigers, which was led by Marchese scoring eight points. She finished with 12 points.

"Lindsey is a great basketball player," Deep said. "The other girls really try to find her and get her the ball. That was huge in the second quarter."

McConnell led 19-12 at halftime and began to pull way with a pair of baskets from Asia McCoy and Marchese.

Autumn Newby, whose older sister Madison plays for Archer's varsity team, scored six of her game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.

"She's one of the best players I've coached in 16 years," Deep said. "She's the best basketball player I've coached talent-wise."

McConnell (15-0) had its biggest lead at 13 points and Shiloh was able to cut it to eight points on Emani Walker's 3-pointer. But McConnell reeled off the next six points to deny any comeback. Sharai Lay led the Generals with 12 points and Walker had seven.

After winning the Eastern Division in 2011, Shiloh has lost in the championship game the last two years. The Generals fell to eventual county champion Trickum last year.

"That's the closest game this year," Deep said. "We've mercy ruled every game this year. They came out with a game plan and great effort."

The following players were selected to the all-county Eastern Division team. For the girls team, Jasmine Williams (Grace Snell), Asia McCoy (McConnell), Autumn Newby (McConnell), Allison Boss (McConnell), Sharai Lay (Shiloh), Linsey Marchese (McConnell), Hannah Turnbull (Trickum), Tia Shorter (McConnell), N'Dea Jones (Crews), Taylor Morris (Trickum).

For the boys team, Trae Higginbotham (Crews), Markus Smith (Crews), Zachery Cooks (Five Forks), Donald Parham (Five Forks), Aljami Durham (Five Forks), Chandler Evans (McConnell), Abijah Walker (Moore), Jaquan Morris (Richards), Jerique Walker (Grace Snell), D'Onte Torrence (Snellville).