Meadowcreek 75, Pebblebrook 60
The smallest guy on the court made the biggest impact for Meadowcreek on Wednesday in its Elite Eight game against Pebblebrook.
Jalen Benjamin, a 5-foot-10 guard, was a one-man show in the first half and set the tone as the Class AAAAAAA No. 2 Mustangs overwhelmed visiting No. 6 Pebblebrook, 75-60.
“We knew Pebblebrook was a dangerous team, so we wanted to come out and throw the first punch,” Meadowcreek coach Curtis Gilleylen said. “Jalen got the hot hand and we rode it.”
Benjamin, who has signed with Alabama-Birmingham, scored the first six points of the game and scored 20 of his team-high 25 points in the first half. Benjamin had four 3-pointers to spark the Mustangs to a 43-16 halftime lead.
“If he gets hot, you’ve got to keep going back to him,” Gilleylen said. “He’s the type of kid that has no conscious. You’ve got to keep feeding him.”
Meadowcreek (25-5) also got 18 points from the ever-present Damian Dunn and 16 points from Jamir Chaplin, who had four slam dunks. The most thunderous came at 2:02 in the first quarter when Chaplin received a pass on the left baseline and realized he was unguarded to the basket. The slam was delivered with such power that the bracket holding the basket had to be put back into place.
Pebblebrook (20-10) trailed by as many as 28 points in the second half before trying to claw their way back into the game. The Falcons began firing 3-pointers at every opportunity and hit eight in the second half. But they were only able to get as close as 15, which forced Gilleylen to re-insert his started to finish the game.
“Toward the end of the game we kind of got a little lackadaisical,” Gilleylen said. “We’ve got to learn how to finish the game off. You shouldn’t have a 20-something point lead and win by 15.”
Pebblebrook was led by sophomore Danny Stubbs, who scored 23 of his 25 in the second half, an output that included six 3-pointers. Senior Jalen Harper kept the Falcons afloat with 12 in the first half and finished with 20.
Defending state champion Meadowcreek will play Tift County in the semifinals on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Buford City Arena. Tift County, which won the title in 2017, defeated Discovery 47-43 in the quarterfinals.
“Tift County is going to be very dangerous,” Gilleylen said. “They are a very good defensive team. It should be a good battle.”