• Lumpkin’s Jacob Zarate (right) Austin Black (32) react after the Indians won their second straight Battle of the States Championship.

Varsity boys win back-to-back Battle of the States Championships

The Indians varsity basketball team became just the third boys team to win back-to-back Battle of the States championships in the 23 year history of the three-day tournament hosted by Towns County when they defeated Towns County in the finals on Friday, Dec. 30, solidifying their spot in the history books.

With Towns County having never won the tournament, history was to be made either way when the two squads faced off in the championship game. What resulted in the matchup was a game that could be considered an instant classic that went to the wire.

The two teams came into the contest having played two games against each other which they split, making it an intriguing matchup for those in attendance.

Zach Pulley knocked down the games firs basket to give Lumpkin an early 2-0 advantage. However, Towns went on a 5-0 run to take a 5-2 advantage. The Towns County Indians maintained the lead throughout the remainder of the first quarter, outscoring Lumpkin 15-12.

Towns County extended its lead to 19-12 with a 4-0 run to start the second quarter. Lumpkin trailed by as many as 14 points in the second, but finished the half with a 11-6 run to lessen the Towns County lead to 37-29 at the half.

The Indians received a remarkable first half performance from its star player, Pulley. Pulley knocked down 17 of Lumpkin’s 29 points in the first half. Pulley singlehandedly kept the Indians within striking distance with his aggressive play near the basket. Jacob Zarate and Austin Black contributed four and five points respectively in the first half to support Pulley’s monster first half numbers.

Things began to fall Lumpkin’s way to start the third quarter, as the Indians cut the Towns County lead to three points in the opening minutes of the second half. With Towns ahead 40-37, it appeared that Lumpkin had taken control of the momentum of the game. A few baskets later, the Indians took their first lead since the opening minutes of the first quarter at 44-42.

The offensive surge was thanks to a large degree by the energy the Indians put into their defensive game. Lumpkin continued to play strong defense which led to easy transition buckets off turnovers and allowed the Indians to extend their lead to 51-44. Not willing to go out quietly, Towns County rallied back with a 5-0 run to end the third quarter and cut the Lumpkin advantage to 51-49 going into the final quarter.

Towns County quickly tied the game at 51-51 at the start of the fourth quarter and retook control of the game with a 6-0 run that was spurred on by a raucous home crowd. Towns built a 58-53 advantage before Lumpkin was able to answer back. The Indians did just that with 7-4 run which tied the game at 63-63.

Towns knocked down a free throw to retake the lead at 64-63 with less than three minutes remaining in the contest. LCHS head boys basketball coach Jeff Steele called a timeout after the free throw.

“You have less than three minutes to make a name for yourselves,” said Steele during the timeout.

The words of their coach seemed to hit home for the Indians as they quickly retook the lead at 65-64. It would be prove to be the final lead change of the game, as Lumpkin outscored Towns County 5-3 in the final minutes of the contest. Towns threatened late when it cut the Indian lead to 68-67, but made foul shots by Pulley allowed Lumpkin to hold on to a 70-67 victory.

“Thats what playing like a warrior can do,’ Steele said after the win. ‘I am proud of the way the guys fought tonight. For them to come in here and win back-to-back championships is a testament to the hard work they put in.”

Pulley led the Indians with 31 points, earning Tournament MVP honors. Zarate connected for 13 points and Austin Black knocked down 11 points and each of them were selected to the All-Tournament team. Chris Conrad had his best game of the season with eight points, including five huge points late in the fourth quarter.

The back-to-back Battle of the States championship titles for Lumpkin marked just the third time in the tournament’s 23 year history that a boys team had accomplished the feat.

The Indians followed their Battle of the States championship with a road conference matchup with Greater Atlanta Christian on Tuesday, January 3.

Despite a 30-point performance by Pulley and a 33-30 halftime lead, Lumpkin could not find enough offense in the second half to keep up with GAC. GAC outscored the Indians 44-21 in the final two quarters to emerge victorious 74-54.

The loss dropped Lumpkin’s region record to 1-4 and its overall record to 9-6.

The Indians’ region game versus Union County scheduled for Friday, January 6, at the Longhouse was cancelled due to the threat of wintery weather. No makeup date has been set.

At press time, the Indians were set to take on region rival North Hall on the road on Tuesday, January 10, in hopes of improving their conference record. No official results were available.

The Indians will be back in action when they host East Hall at the Longhouse on Friday, January 13. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m.

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