DACULA — As good as Erin Rodgers was Tuesday night, the Grayson girls basketball team’s defense may have been better.
Rodgers earned MVP honors and the Rams stifled host Dacula in a 58-21 victory for the championship in the Dacula Basketball Tip-Off Classic, scoring the game’s first 20 points and leading 22-2 after a quarter. The visitors forced 14 first-quarter turnovers by Dacula, which played without injured star Lazaria Spearman.
“The strength of our team is our team,” first-year Grayson girls coach Tim Slater said. “It’s something we’ve said all year, losing yourself to the team. To hold a team to a total like that is impressive, but it really just goes to our kids’ heart and their buy-in. It makes you proud as a coach. There’s not a whole lot you can complain about when you hold a team to that low of a point total.”
On the offensive end, Rodgers outscored Dacula by herself.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds, both easily game highs, and scored half of Grayson’s 22 first-quarter points. She had 18 by halftime, highlighted by a four-point play in the second quarter. She scored 24 in each of the Rams’ first two wins in the tournament.
“Erin Rodgers is a special player,” Slater said. “She’s a sophomore and Gwinnett County’s been blessed to have some special kids coming through that are special talents. I think hopefully a performance like this week is something that can catapult her onto that stage. We’ve seen it at practice, so we know. The sky’s the limit. I think she’s got the opportunity to be not just an all-county kid, but potentially an all-state kid. And if she does her job, there’s no reason at the end of her career she can’t be Miss Georgia Basketball.”
Grayson’s 20-0 run to start the game was finally broken when Dacula’s Emily Digby scored with 53 seconds left in the first quarter. While Dacula cut down on its turnovers in the second quarter, the Rams continued the onslaught and led 37-7 at halftime. Their lead grew as high as 41 in the second half, thanks in part to forcing nine more turnovers in the third quarter.
Catherine Alben backed up Rodgers with 11 points, and Tatum Brown scored 10. Akhaila Horne grabbed eight rebounds for the Rams, who enjoyed a spirited celebration with their trophy on the court — showing what the victory meant to them.
“Winning is a learned skill,” said Slater, who led Lanier’s girls to the 2019 state championship. “Last year, they were 13-13 and the history of the school, they’ve never been past the Sweet Sixteen. That’s something we’re trying to change every chance we get. We’re up 40 and I’ve got kids diving on the floor and that’s important. Learning the habits of a winner is important and that’s what we’re trying to establish here at Grayson.”
Dacula was led by Mekera Standridge, who had eight points, and Dannah Nembhard, who grabbed eight rebounds.