GRAY -- The first two times Northside and Warner Robins met this season, the visiting team won by a point.
The rubber match was for the GHSA Region 2-AAAAA boys championship and a No. 1 seed entering the Class AAAAA playoffs and was about 45 minutes away from town.
The Eagles and Demons went at it as they did the first two times, but Warner Robins was able to hold off Northside for a 62-57 win at Jones County.
Northside won the first meeting 59-58 at Warner Robins, and the Demons answered 61-60 at Northside.
Warner Robins won its second straight region title and improved to 20-4. Northside fell to 15-10. Both will be at home Wednesday in the first round of the playoffs.
But the Demons likely will have a little more spring in their step, able to come up with a few more plays every time the Eagles made a run.
“It was just like the first two games,” Warner Robins head coach Jamaal Garman said. “Right toward the end, it started feeling like the first two games. They would knock down a crazy shot, and we’d have to go do something real special to get the ball inbounds. We got turnovers when we didn’t need them.
“It felt like the first two games.”
Marquez Callaway led Warner Robins with 24 points, while Nate Curtis added 15 and Donovan Brown 14.
Darrin Clark had 16 for Northside, including four 3-pointers, and Jaylan Sandifer chipped in 12.
The Demons showed the Eagles some new defenses that led to a sluggish first half. Northside head coach Scott Wynn said Warner Robins came out with a two-man zone, a triangle-and-two and a version of the box-and-one.
“They ran three different gimmick defenses that we weren’t prepared for,” Wynn said. “To their credit, they were ready, and we weren’t prepared for it.
“We made adjustments and halftime, and we were able to get good looks afterward.”
Garmaan had no details on the change.
“I don’t know the names of them,” he said with a big smile, repeating that three times, like a certain NBA head coach in San Antonio. “They were just defenses.
“That’s my Gregg Popovich speech. I don’t know the names of those defenses.”
By the time Wynn could talk to his players at halftime, the Eagles were down 31-21, victims of a nice flurry by Warner Robins at the end of the second quarter, ending with Nate Curtis’s tip-in.
The margin grew to 12 in the third quarter, and then the Eagles cut the Demons’ lead in half only to go into the fourth quarter down 10 again.
They opened the fourth with an 8-0 run to finally get within one with 5:13 left. The Demons countered that with a 6-0 surge, and Northside to cut its deficit to three on three occasions, the final time with 24.5 seconds left on Clark’s 3-pointer after Marquaevious Williams’ steal.
But Callaway was perfect on four free throws to seal it.
“The difference (Saturday) was we wanted it a lot more,” Garman said. “Not that we didn’t want it the first two games. We just wanted it because we knew what was at stake.
“We wanted to win another region championship. To do that, we had to play one of our better games to beat them.”