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East tops West for share of City League title

Published Feb. 18 at 10:20 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 18 at 10:20 p.m.

Tyas Martin became a scoring star for East’s boys basketball team on Tuesday night without ever showcasing what coach Joe Jackson believes to be his greatest asset.

On this Blue Aces team, Martin doesn’t need to do everything because East collectively does it all. His job Friday was to spot up behind the three-point line as West’s defense collapsed on the Aces’ big men.

Martin, a senior guard, made the most of his open perimeter shots, making 4 of 5 three-pointers and scoring 15 points as East dispatched the Pioneers 78-42 to clinch a share of the City League title.

Martin was one of four Aces to achieve double figures, and he did so while barely taking a dribble or challenging West’s interior players, another weapon in his arsenal of necessity.

“His ability to get to the rim is really one of his strengths,” Jackson said. “When teams are laying off of him and he’s shooting the ball like that, that’s a tremendous benefit for him.”

Martin missed much of last season with a knee injury and has helped a reorganized East team claim its first league championship since 2007.

Xavier Kelly, who moved to Georgia from Wichita before high school, joined the Aces this season and guard Samaje Jones rejoined them midseason after missing time due to academic reasons.

Each of those players, and the others in East’s deep rotation, have settled into roles while occasionally earning time to stand out. Martin’s role was going to be giving East a swing-forward type whose specialty was creating offense at the rim, and he has done that, but the Aces overmatch opponents so easily in the post that shooters are needed.

It wasn’t that Martin lost a step after his injury or that he has sacrificed a major part of his game, but he worked to become a more complete player and has shown off his newfound marksmanship.

Tuesday, Martin scored East’s first points with a pull-up three-pointer from the right wing, and in the second half he spotted up from the left corner, making three straight to reach 15 points on six shots.

“We always talk inside-out,” Martin said. “Once we establish the post, (defenses) tend to help down, and that opens up shots for me and other shooters like Zach (Jackson) and Samaje. It’s just like a cycle.”

The Aces clinched the top seed in their Class 6A sub-state, an ominous signal for opponents who may not be able to match East’s built-for-the-postseason versatility.

East possesses superior ball-handlers, experience in the paint in senior Traevon McGairity, who teams with Kelly to give the Aces a pair of bruisers, and multi-dimensional shooters like Martin who don’t need their shots created by others.

And whose new dimension has created a new level of confidence.

“Tyus has become much more consistent throughout this year with his shot,” Jackson said. “He has a lot less back-to-front movement on it. His shot has become a lot more compact, and that’s a testament to the work he’s put in on it. He’s played big for us several games this year.”

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WEST: Reed 9, Money 15, Farris 7, Leeks 2, Capps 6, Mitchell 3.

EAST: Mutazammil 10, E. Kelly 2, Martin 15, Champion 2, Jackson 2, X. Kelly 13, Hartley 5, Jones 8, Fralin 4, McGairity 14, Dixon 3.