The Pace Academy boys’ basketball team is a state champion once again.
Pace claimed its first title since 2021 with a 66-54 victory over Fayette County in the Class AAAA boys’ basketball tournament championship game in Macon March 8.
It is the fifth state crown and third in four years for the Knights (25-7), who won the Class AA championship in 2016, the AAA title in ‘17 and ‘20 and was victorious in AA In ‘21.
“We lost one of our top players (sophomore Bryson Tiller) to (high school developmental league) Overtime Elite and we were not expecting to finish the way we finished or be in consideration for the state championship,” Pace Academy coach Sharman White said. “But these guys have a lot of pride, a lot of moxie to go out and compete every night and put ourselves in position to where we can consider getting our (state championship) trophy back, because we had won it the previous two years before not winning it last year.”
It’s also the 10th state crown overall and third at Pace Academy for White, who also won seven titles at Miller Grove (2009-14, 2016).
“It’s just truly a blessing,” White said. “When I got into this, I never could have imagined this happening. I’ve always thought that I wanted to be successful, but to this magnitude is something that sometimes I have to pinch myself, because it’s hard to believe this level of success. But there’s a lot of hands in it, from the players to the coaches to the communities of the schools that I’ve been a part of to the administration. It’s not just me, it’s a lot of hands and a lot of teamwork and sacrifice that my family makes for me to be able to do this at a high level.”
The AAAA championship game was tied at 16-all at the end of the first quarter, but Pace outscored Fayette County 23-16 in the second quarter to take a 39-32 halftime lead.
The Knights used an 8-0 run in the third quarter to expand their lead to double digits and proceeded to lead the rest of the game.
“Fayette County was a very formidable opponent,” White said. “They came in and had won 13 straight (games). They have a very high powered offense, so what we wanted to do is try to slow them down a little bit and be able to play the game at a tempo we wanted to play at and our guys went out and executed that game plan from the end of the second quarter and the first few minutes of the third quarter. I think we kind of established the tempo and made sure we were in control of it from a defensive perspective and it made all the difference in the world. Our guys were able to bring it home and they followed the game plan to a T.”
Junior L.J. Moore scored 23 points, making 10 of 16 shots, while grabbing seven rebounds to lead the way for Pace Academy.
The Knights were also led by junior Kyle Greene, who contributed 19 points and five rebounds, while shooting 9-for-13 from the field.
Pace was dominant on the boards, outrebounding Fayette County 41-19.
To reach the finals of the AAAA tournament, Pace Academy defeated Miller Grove 67-28 in the first round Feb. 21, Walnut Grove 58-41 in the second round Feb. 25, Baldwin 62-31 in the quarterfinals March 1 and Westover 57-49 in the semifinals March 4.
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