NORCROSS — The golden era of Meadowcreek athletics added another major milestone Wednesday night.
The Mustangs’ boys basketball team advanced to its first final four with a 67-57 over scrappy Campbell in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals, setting up an all-Gwinnett semifinal Saturday at 8 p.m. against Grayson at the Buford City Arena.
Meadowcreek’s run comes on the heels of the school’s first boys state championship last spring in soccer and the long-struggling football program’s first winning season since 1990 and first playoff berth since 1988.
Now, the Mustangs (23-6) are two wins away from a state title.
“It means a lot for this community,” Meadowcreek coach Curtis Gilleylen said. “Meadowcreek has been like the step-child program for years. Soccer kind of got us started last year. Football kept it going with their playoff run. We’re following right behind. We want to make our mark as well. We want to let them know we’re a top athletic program here as well.”
Jamir Chaplin led the Mustangs with 21 points in the quarterfinal win, Cory Hightower had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Amari Kelly had 14 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and three assists. Reserve Emmanuel Collier had a trio of big 3-pointers and Dequarius Nicholas had five rebounds and five assists.
Campbell (20-10) had more luck than many against Meadowcreek’s stingy defense — the Mustangs had held their first two state tournament foes to 47 and 32 points — but the Spartans couldn’t pull off the upset in front of a big, raucous pack of home fans.
“It was big for the crowd,” Hightower said. “First time in history. We did it for the culture and for ourselves as well.”
Meadowcreek trailed just twice, at the beginning and end of the first quarter. It took control with a 26-point second quarter, building an 11-point halftime lead.
Terrell Burden, who had a game-high 25 points, kept Campbell in it with 13 of its 24 points in the first half.
The Mustangs led by as many as 13 on multiple occasions, but Campbell fought back with an 11-2 run at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters to make it interesting. Eight turnovers in the fourth didn’t help Meadowcreek, either.
Chaplin stopped the run with a basket, then a near turnover stole more momentum from the Spartans. Kelly chased down a deflected pass into the backcourt and fired a long pass to Chaplin for a dunk.
Kelly scored on a tip-in moments later and Campbell never got closer than five points from there.
“It’s a hard-fought victory,” Gilleylen said. “Campbell, I’ve been coaching against Coach (James) Gwyn for 10-plus years. He’s always going to have his guys ready to play. They’re going to go hard. They’re going to pay with heart and guts and that’s what they did. They were able to out-scrap us a little and stay in the game, but we were able to overcome at the end.”
Campbell backed up Burden with 12 points from Donovan Grant, 10 points and eight rebounds from Kiya Randolph and 10 points from Brandon Deravine. Those players picked up their scoring in the second half, making Meadowcreek work hard to hold the lead.
The Mustangs finished it off and took the boys basketball program to a new level.
“It means a lot (to make the final four), putting our name up there,” Chaplin said. “We feel real good about this final four going into it for the first time. Our players, we’re getting together and getting closer.”