LOGANVILLE — It took two buzzer-beaters and a clutch free throw from the Region 8-AAAAAAA tournament MVP to beat a team the Rams creamed by 14 points two weeks ago.
It was sometimes ugly, and a little unlucky, but fortunes evened out for Grayson when Jazmin Robinson sunk one of her two free throws with 1.6 seconds left to give Grayson a 61-60 lead and the Region 8-AAAAAAA championship. It marks Grayson girls basketball’s first region championship.
The game’s conclusion came with controversy. Rockdale inbounded the ball after the free throw but the clock never started. The Bulldogs heaved a pass or perhaps a low shot that was recovered by Grayson seemingly after time expired. Officials opted not to permit Rockdale a do-over, the opposite of a ruling from earlier in the game when Rockdale inbounded the ball but the clock did not start.
“I think, especially since Malia caught the ball, I think they were different situations there,” Grayson coach Robin Potter said. “I can’t even remember. It feels like a lifetime ago.”
However, the Rams had to earn the No. 1 state playoff seed, they’ll take. Grayson (26-2) matches up with South Forsyth, the No. 4 seed from Region 5. Rockdale will host its first home playoff game since 2004 against West Forsyth.
The Grayson girls basketball team struggled to get any shots to fall in overtime, but Nadia Howard hit the one the Rams needed to stay alive in the first period. She drained a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left, the only basket Grayson made in the first overtime. She fouled out early in the next period and finished with a game-high 19 points.
In the second overtime, Malia Grace scored on back-to-back possessions to give Grayson a 59-57 lead with slightly more than two minutes left. Rockdale scored with 26 seconds left to take the lead but fouled Victoria Dames, who tied the game on a free throw.
Another turnover gave Grayson a chance to win the game. The Rams missed a few shots but kept the possession alive by tipping the ball. Finally, Robinson pulled down a rebound and was fouled going back up.
“She was going to get the ball one way or the other there,” Potter said. “She just willed the win, I believe.”
Rockdale pressured Robinson thoroughly. She finished with eight points and was held scoreless in the first and third quarters. The outside shots Grayson hit in the semifinals against Newton weren’t falling on Saturday night. Grayson’s dependence on Robinson’s rebounding also showed during the game. Rockdale’s second-chance points played a big factor.
Grayson led 7-2 in the first quarter with two 3-pointers for Victoria Dames, who had 16 points. Rockdale prevented a fatal skid and rallied to take the lead at the end of the quarter.
Rockdale’s 24 got to the line and made two free throws with 49 seconds left in the quarter to give the Bulldogs’ their first lead, 12-11.
Grayson scored on a fastbreak to start the quarter, but a 10-0 run for Rockdale gave the Bulldogs a 22-13 lead with roughly 2:30 left in the first half.
Grayson was plagued by the same disease that hindered the Rams in the semifinals: turnovers.
Rockdale also made baskets with consistency. The Bulldogs’ lead grew to as much as 10 points in the second quarter.
Grayson came out of the locker room seeming more inspired in the second half and closed the deficit to four points with 4:00 left in the third quarter.
Grayson pulled within one, 30-29, on a shot from freshman Catherine Alben. She and Howard came on in a crucial spot for Grayson, combining for 15 of the Rams’ third-quarter points.
Trailing 36-34 in the fourth quarter’s first possession, Dames drained a timely 3-pointer to briefly give Grayson the lead back. Rockdale missed a layup with 20 seconds left and Grayson hustled in transition. The Rams’ initial attempt missed but Rockdale lost possession before Grayson foul and Alben scored at the horn to force overtime.
Grayson (boys) 64, Newton 56
Grayson boys basketball has intimidating depth even when Deivon Smith and Jevon Tatum are having off nights. When both Grayson Rams are on point, it’s even more intimidating.
Smith had 25 points and Tatum tallied 18 in the Rams’ region championship win over Newton.
It clinched the first region title for the Grayson boys basketball program, making Saturday night’s sweep a historic one for both first-time champions when for years Grayson’s basketball programs lacked a history or tradition of winning.
“There’s no substitute for hard work,” Geoffrey Pierce said. “We had to do it in stages here. … We tried to get them to fall in love with the process.”
Newton tied the game 36-36 with just more than 3:00 left in the third quarter, but Tatum delivered a swift response with a 3-pointer.
Tatum got fouled on Grayson’s next possession and hit another triple after the inbound to give Grayson a 42-38 lead.
Newton crept within one point near the six-minute mark, but Smith casually nailed a deep 3-pointer to stretch Grayson’s lead to 51-46 with 4:52 left.
“We try to make (Tatum and Smith) aggressive because when they’re aggressive it makes everyone else’s job easier offensively.”
Grayson (24-3) will match up with Forsyth Central in the first round of the state tournament.
Archer 58, Newton 54
Archer girls basketball topped Newton to earn the No. 3 seed in the Class AAAAAAA girls basketball tournament.
Archer trailed Newton 23-18 at halftime. Cazia Nelson downed a 3-pointer to tied the game 23-23, but Newton responded with its own 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
Archer went on an 8-1 run that lasted until 3:30 was left in the third period. Newton responded out of a timeout with a 13-0 run including a handful of 3-point plays.
Archer tied the game 52-52 with 1:35 left with a Gatewood basket in the post. 3 gave Archer a 53-52 lead on a pair of free throws and Heard converted a fast-break bucket on the following possession with fewer than 30 seconds left.
Shiloh 71, Archer 39
Shiloh boys basketball earned a No. 3 seed in the state tournament after dominating three quarters against Archer on Saturday afternoon.
Toneari Lane led Shiloh with 15 points.
Shiloh led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter before starting a 9-2 run in the second quarter, coercing Archer to call a timeout to halt the momentum. Shiloh went on to outscore Archer 21-6 in the second quarter.