Jordan coach Gerald Turner clapped. Then exhaled. Then wiped his brow.
The man who steered his team to the Class AAA state title last year saw a repeat bid denied by a resilient Glenn Hills team Tuesday night.
The Spartans overcame a 27-19 halftime deficit to take control of the game over the final 3 minutes in a 52-49 victory in the second round of the Georgia High School Association's state playoffs.
Turner knows the ingredients of a state champion. His team found what it takes to be called the best of Class AAA.
He also knows the game.
That's why he chose not to reflect on foul calls that put his shallow bench in trouble late in the second quarter. Or that his team took three free throws compared to 21 for the home team.
He could only respect the Spartans' effort.
"That was the best match in the state there," Turner said. "It could easily have been the state final. It was too good of a game for the second round. Glenn Hills has the makings of a championship team. If they keep playing like tonight, they can take it. These fans sure got their money's worth and then some tonight."
Glenn Hills (26-2) clicked off the biggest win in the history of its boys program and the best in Richard Wallace's 18 seasons with a second-half surge.
The Spartans scored the first 12 points of the second half to flip an eight-point deficit into a 31-27 lead with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter.
"We had jitters," senior Chris Reynolds said. "We'd never been in a game this big, so we came out with nerves. Jordan had been in this before. We had to rise to their level, play with more poise and calm down."
Glenn Hills missed seven shots from inside of three feet during the first half.
"They were chippies," Wallace said. "Chip shots. I told our guys we were going to play better in the second half. Because as bad as we played we were just down eight."
It was the third consecutive superb defensive effort from the Spartans. Glenn Hills held Jordan (27-2) to its lowest point total in two seasons.
Glenn Hills will now try to beat Washington County (22-8) for the fourth time this season in the Class AAA quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. That game will be held at Columbus State.
The game swung on the talents of the Spartans' college-bound trio. Middleton had 21 points and flashed the stuff that earned him a scholarship to Winthrop. UNC-Wilmington signee Stephenson had 15. Campbell University-bound Reynolds had 13.
They combined for 49 of the 52 Glenn Hills points.
"It was a big game," Wallace said. "That's what college-bound kids are supposed to do in games like this one."
Jordan (27-2) hit nine three pointers but shot just 36 percent from the field. Jerome Jones and Ivey Winford each had 12 points.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.