LAWRENCEVILLE — With their respective seasons on the line, Central Gwinnett’s boys and girls basketball teams each looked for some clutch performances in their second-round games of the Region 7-AAAAAAA tournament against Lakeside-DeKalb on Tuesday on their home floor.
The girls got them from Diarra Smith and Dalen Tate, who came up big as the Black Knights opened up a big early lead en route to a 61-51victory.
The boys, meanwhile, had to rally from a late deficit to send the game into overtime on Skylar Adams’ 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation before Spencer Turner’s conventional three-point play with 55.2 seconds left in the extra frame, plus four clutch free throws in the finals 21.4 seconds, helped seal a 68-64 Central win.
Both teams not only locked down a berth in today’s semifinal against top-seeded Norcross, but also a spot in the Class AAAAAAA state tournament.
The girls did most of their heavy lifting early, with Smith collecting 16 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, all but one of which came on 3-pointers, as Central (12-12) built 36-18 halftime lead.
Tate, who was the only other Central player in double figures with 13 points and led the team with seven rebounds, also played a big role in the first half surge with five of her game-high six assists, and the helped the Black Knights match their biggest lead at 42-24 following her driving layup down the right wing with 6:25 left in the third quarter.
But when Tate left with foul trouble late in the period, Lakeside (10-13) slowly began to chip away, and used an 11-2 run over the remainder of the frame to pull to within 44-35.
The Vikings would eventually pull as close as seven points at 54-47 following a pair of free throws by Mashayia Brown (12 points, four assists) with 1:54 left.
But Central, which struggled on the night by hitting just 10 of 25 free throws, got hot from the line when it needed to, hitting 6 of 8 shots in the final 2:03, and Tate fed Smith for a layup with 30 seconds left for good to put away the win despite 15 points from Lakeside’s Kieara Jackson, plus 12 points and 11 boards from Taja Teague.
“They pulled together as a team,” Central coach Shalisha Davis said. “When they do that, that’s what typically happens. What we try to build off this is to try to get better and focus.”
As much as the Central girls struggled from the line, both teams in the boys game really had their problems. They combined for 78 free throws and only made 39 of them.
It looked like those struggles from the charity stripe would prove costly for the Black Knights (9-15), who made only 15 of 32 free throws on the night, and fell behind by as much as 49-42 following Elwood Moore’s 3-pointer with 3:03 to play.
And while they fought back to pull as close as two points three times in the final 1:03, their season was still in serious jeopardy when Antwan Tate 1 of 2 free throws with 16 seconds left to give Lakeside (12-11) a 57-54 lead, and then went back to the line after rebounding a Central miss on the other end.
But like the Black Knights the Vikings also were ice cold from the line, hitting just 24 of 46 on the evening, including two misses by Matthew Holt with 8.6 seconds left to keep the door open.
And Adams, who finished with 13 points, kicked in the door by receiving a long outlet pass from Shareef Sample and knocking down a 3-pointer from the left corner with just two ticks left on the clock to send the game into overtime.
“We just had to keep fighting,” Central coach Emmett Rouse said. “I told (the players), ‘If they’re going to keep playing hard, we’ve got to keep playing hard.’”
That effort finally paid off in the extra frame, with the game tied at 61 in the final minute.
After a missed shot on an attempt to take the lead, Turner stayed with the play and stole the Vikings’ outlet attempt, drove down the lane for a layup and then hit the ensuing free throw for a three-point play that gave the Black Knights the lead for good at 64-61 with 55.2 seconds left.
Lakeside pulled as close at 64-62 with Tate hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 47.3 seconds left, but Adams and Bernard Kasanda each came up clutch at the line by hitting both ends of separate two-shot opportunities, the latter with 0:00.8 showing on the clock, to seal the win.
Kasanda finished with a team-high 16 points despite hitting just 4 of 12 from the line, and also pulled down nine rebounds, while Sample added 12 points and seven boards and Marvin Louis-Charles scored 10.
Damon Davis scored 16 points to lead Lakeside, while Tate added 15.