NORCROSS — Balanced scoring and great rebounding was the recipe for success for Grayson’s girls basketball team, as the Rams defeated Brookwood 66-47 at the Wesleyan Invitational.
Three Grayson players reached double figures in points, with Malia Grace and Catherine Alben leading the way with 18 points apiece. Nyelle Lee had another 15, and Victoria Dames nearly got there herself with nine to go with seven rebounds. The Rams outrebounded the Broncos 32-23, and many of those rebounds created second chance opportunities they turned into points. Grace and Alben led the team in that department too, with 10 and seven boards respectively. Alben also had five assists and four steals.
“We’ve been working hard on our sophomore group,” Grayson head coach Robin Potter said. “A couple of them had to start today because we had some players taking the SATs. That depth is good to see. As the season goes forward, we’re definitely going to need output from them.”
Tori Delk led the way for the Broncos (4-4) with 14 points, and Kulo was up there battling for most of those rebounds, pulling down eight of them for Brookwood.
It was Brookwood who seized control first, forcing a quick Grayson timeout with five points in the opening minute. The Broncos stayed on top for most of the opening frame, with some tough defense making life tough for the Rams (4-3).
Eventually Grayson settled on offense a little bit, and managed to go on an 8-0 run late in the first quarter to grab the lead for the first time. The run was keyed by Grace, who led the Rams with five points in the first quarter. Grayson took a 13-9 lead into the second quarter, where the pace really picked up.
Both teams started shooting the ball better after the first quarter, and possessions started to shorten a little bit as the tempo increased. Offensive rebounding became particularly key for the Rams, as they had three second-chance baskets in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Grayson maintained the advantage they built up at the end of the first, taking its largest lead of the first half with two minutes remaining in it when Dames hit a big three to make it 28-21 Rams.
“We’ve been focusing on rebounding,” Potter said. “It’s about getting all five of them on the defensive boards. And we knew of course with Selma (Kulo) and Brookwood being so tough that Malia and our big girls were going to need help.”
The Broncos hit back with a spurt of their own to close the half, and the margin closed the half the same as it closed the first quarter, with Grayson leading by four at 30-26.
The Rams picked up right where the left off before halftime with a 7-0 run out of halftime, with another big three from Dames triggering the spurt. The Broncos turned up the pressure on defense a little bit, and got the deficit as low as four at one point at 41-37.
But from that point on, Grayson closed the game on a 25-10 run, dominating at both ends of the court. Alben hit a big driving layup as the third quarter clock expired to make it 50-41 Grayson, and another big run to start the fourth put the game away.
This time it was an 11-4 run, and it was more rebounding and more depth scoring that fueled it. Both teams were playing on the second half of back-to-backs, but the Rams weren’t showing any signs of fatigue.
“We’ve been struggling,” Potter said. “Yesterday we had a tough game against Loganville. I had to challenge that at halftime. I learned that they’re resilient from that. We’re getting better.”
Grayson will head to Newton for its region opener next time out, while Brookwood will look to right the ship against Central Gwinnett.
“We just have to continue to keep fighting,” Brookwood head coach Courtney Strauthers said. “We have to learn how to finish games.”