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GAC girls to face unbeaten Kendrick next

NORCROSS -- There was certainly nothing unlucky about the start to the Greater Atlanta Christian girls' 13th straight trip to the state tournament.

That can't be said of the Spartans' draw for the second round of the Class AA tourney, though.

As the reward for a dominating 68-30 victory over Dade County on Tuesday night, GAC has to make a trip to Columbus on Friday to play unbeaten Kendrick.

The Region 5-AA champion Cherokees (27-0) will be out for some delayed revenge, too. The Spartans handed them their first loss two years ago in the quarterfinals.

"It will be tough playing down there and we know they're a good team," GAC coach Cal Boyd said. "They like to press and they play 10 girls."

The Spartans (20-7) aren't deep, but their own pressure defense was much more than visiting Dade County (22-7) could handle at the Long Forum.

The No. 3 seed from Region 7-AA committed 26 turnovers and could never get into its offense against GAC's pressure defense.

"They'd been shooting 20 3-pointers a game and making 40 percent of them," Boyd said. "We couldn't let them get comfortable. We knew we had to get out on them and disrupt what they wanted to do."

The Spartans, seeded No. 2 from Region 6-AA, certainly did just that.

GAC forced seven straight turnovers during a 13-0 run midway in the first quarter and kept up the defensive onslaught while outscoring Dade County 20-5 in the second quarter for a 39-20 halftime lead.

Dade County turned the ball over 18 times in the first half -- nine in each quarter. GAC, meanwhile, didn't have a turnover until the Wolverines already had 13 and committed just two in the first half.

GAC placed all five starters in double figures, with Briana Cummings and CiCi Buford each scoring 16 points. Sydni Means had 13 points to go along with four assists, while Cosette Mahre scored 11 and Jasmine Hill had 10.

Means scored nine of her 11 first-half points in the second quarter after Cummings had helped get GAC off to its good start with nine points in the opening quarter. Hill hit two of the Spartans' five 3-pointers in the first half and had eight points at intermission.

GAC shot 56.5 percent for the game, including 7-for-13 from behind the 3-point arc.

But it was the Spartans defense, led by four steals each from Means and Cummings, that made the game a rout.

Erika Woodfin scored 10 points, and 6-foot-2 Ansley Chilton had nine points and eight rebounds for Dade County, which trailed 57-27 after three quarters.

"We played well," Boyd said. "It was definitely a nice way to get started.

The Spartans, which have won three titles and finished second twice in their state tournament streak, have made the Sweet 16 every year since 2004.

Now unbeaten Kendrick, which defeated Jefferson 73-35 in its first-round game, stands in their way of making it to at least the quarterfinals for the fourth time in five seasons after a two-point loss to Model in the second round a year ago.