Trailing for almost 30 minutes of the game, the No. 7 ranked Cedar Grove Lady Saints rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Dawson County Lady Tigers 45-39 in first round action of the Class 3A state playoffs at Cedar Grove on Thursday.
Dawson County (14-12) jumped out to a 9-0 lead and kept the Lady Saints at bey and taking a 35-27 lead into the fourth quarter on freshman Emma Walls’ three-pointer with 32 seconds left.
The first two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter was scoreless as Cedar Grove (19-5) missed three free throws and had one lane violation on another to give Dawson County the ball with 5:26 to play.
Dawson County tried to freeze the basketball at that point, but a couple of turnovers led to four consecutive free throws by Cedar Grove, 2 each by senior Toya Stephens and sophomore Mariah Williams, to trim the lead to four (35-31) with 3:35 to play.
On the Lady Tigers’ next possession, Cedar Grove’s super sophomore Rickayla Johnson made a steal. She cruised in for a layup and drew the foul. She calmly hit the free throw to close the gap to 35-34 with 3:21 to play.
Another turnover led to a missed three by the Lady Saints and a foul sent Dawson County’s Sophia D’Olivira to line where she sank both free throws to push the lead back out to three (37-34).
Johnson answered with a 10-foot pull up jumped to cut the lead back to 37-36 with 2:39 to play. A long pass up the court by Dawson County went off a player’s hands and out of bounds setting up the Lady Saints with a chance to take the lead.
Williams got a big offensive rebound and put it back up and in 2:22 to play giving Cedar Grove it’s first lead of the game at 38-37.
The two teams combined for four consecutive turnovers, the last ending up in the hands of Johnson who passed ahead to Lelah Easterly for an easy layup to extend the lead to 40-37 with 58 seconds remaining.
Another Dawson County turnover (12 in the fourth quarter) led to Williams being fouled and going to the line for a pressure packed one-plus-the-bonus with 32.8 seconds to play. She hit nothing but net on both to give the home team a 42-37 advantage.
Dawson County got its last points of the night on a pair of Madison Anglin free throws with 18.4 seconds to play. Johnson was fouled on the inbounds and hit one of two free throws to give Cedar Grove a 43-39 lead with 17.5 seconds.
Another steal by Johnson led to an offensive rebound by Easterly who put the ball back up and in for the final of 45-39 as the final 4.3 seconds ticked off the clock.
Johnson finished with a game-high 25 points to lead Cedar Grove. Lelah Easterly added six points and 12 rebounds to go with Mariah Williams eight points and six rebounds.
Marlie Townley led Dawson County with a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double and Madison Anglin added 12 points.
Cedar Grove moves into the second round of the state playoffs for just the third time in program history and the first since 2018. The Lady Saints are set to host the winner of tomorrow night’s Beach (18-9)/Crisp County (15-5) winner next Wednesday.
DCSD STATE BASKETBALL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Thursday, Feb. 13
Cedar Grove (19-5) 45, Dawson Co. (14-12) 39
Friday, Feb. 14
Lakeside (11-12) at No. 4 North Forsyth (25-2), 6:00 pm
Stephenson (19-9) at Brunswick (17-9), 6:00 pm
Rome (19-9) at No. 4 SW DeKalb (21-6), 6:00 pm
Villa Rica (22-6) at Arabia Mountain (22-5), 5:30 pm
Columbia (15-9) at No. 3 Carrollton (18-10), 6:00 pm
Lithonia (9-16) at No. 2 Kell (28-0), 6:00 pm
Druid Hills (14-14) at No. 3 Spalding (21-4), 6:00 pm
Stone Mountain (10-15) at No. 4 Greater Atlanta Christian (15-12), 6:00 pm
Stephenson (17-10) at Glynn Academy (9-19), 8:00 pm
Miller Grove (19-10) at No. 5 Kell (23-5), 7:30 pm
Saturday, Feb. 15
Effingham Co. (17-9) at No. 1 Tucker (24-3), 5:00 pm
Paulding Co. (16-12) at SW DeKalb (16-12), 5:00 pm
Cass (16-12) at Columbia (16-11), 5.00 pm
No. 3 Lithonia (24-3) at No. 4 Hiram (22-6), 4:00 pm
Druid Hills (13-15) at Upson-Lee (19-7), 7:00 pm
Cedar Grove (6-18) at No. 2 Dawson Co. (25-2), 7:00 pm