SUWANEE — Jared Ivey couldn’t pass up the perfect opportunity.
Sure, it was the first quarter of the Region 6-AAAAAAA Tournament finals. But he ran out and had an open path to the basket, so the North Gwinnett senior twirled for a 360-degree dunk that sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
“I’ve been thinking for awhile, my first fast break, nobody’s there, I’m going to pull out the 360, and it just happened to be in the region championship game,” the Georgia Tech football signee said. “It was awesome.”
So was North.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs dominated for the second straight night, routing Collins Hill 86-55 Friday for their first boys basketball region championship since 2014. The victory came on the heels of a 74-38 semifinal win the night before over No. 1 seed Discovery.
All five North starters scored in double figures, led by 25 points and six rebounds from R.J. Godfrey.
“The guys showed up,” North boys coach Matt Garner said. “We’ve got a couple of pillars in our program that we try to live by and one of them is passion, which is just one wanting it more than the other team, the enthusiasm piece. I feel like our guys have shown up with that at a very high level the last couple of nights. Xs and Os, I feel like they were there, but I kept on telling the kids, ‘If you guys want it more than them, we’ll get it.’ I think that showed up the last couple of days.”
Just like the win over Discovery, North (16-11) blitzed its opponent from the start.
Ivey, who finished with 14 points, had a dunk early as part of a quick 7-0 lead and his 360-degree slam made it 10-3 later in the quarter. The Bulldogs’ Matt Gilbert (11 points, six rebounds, four assists) and Brendan Rigsbee (11 points) opened the second quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers, Godfrey had a dunk and J.R. Martin (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals) canned a 3-pointer that quickly made the lead 28-11.
North made 4 of 5 shots to start the second, and buried Collins Hill (16-11) by making 5 of 9 shots from 3-point range in the quarter. That shooting led to a 40-20 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs also turned the ball over just four times in the first half against Collins Hill’s pressure defense, which forced 59 combined turnovers in the team’s two regular-season meetings.
“I thought our guards, Brendan Rigsbee and J.R. Martin, handled the ball real well,” Garner said. “Jared provided the inside presence we need. Matt Gilbert out top helped with the pressure. R.J. Godfrey did not look like a sophomore tonight. He did not play like a sophomore. He showed up tonight.”
The show continued in the second half with another eye-popping dunk in transition. Martin drove the basket against a lone Collins Hill defender and threw a pass off the backboard to a leaping Ivey, who powered home a dunk.
“That’s just our connection,” Martin said.
The lead expanded to 59-40 after three quarters and North held off Collins Hill’s challenges the rest of the way.
“They don’t stop,” Garner said of Collins Hill, which gets a No. 2 seed for state. “I told our guys, even when we were up 20 at half, they are not going to stop. We might be up 25, they’re not going to stop. They’re going to keep bringing it. That’s the way Coach (Joe) Dix coaches over there.”
Jabiri Smith led the Eagles with 17 points, Travis Hunter had 11 points, four rebounds and three assists and Vino Glover scored eight.