CONYERS -- Rockdale head girls coach Sean Turley was impressed with his team’s defensive performance Saturday night in their first-round playoff game against Mill Creek, but the magnitude of it hadn’t quite sunk in.
The second-year coach wasn’t aware his team had held the Hawks to just four baskets on the night, a standout performance that helped the Bulldogs secure their second consecutive trip the Sweet 16 with a low-scoring 35-14 win on their home court.
The Bulldogs’ 14 points allowed in a playoff game are the fewest in program history. All-in-all, the Bulldogs held the Hawks to under 15 percent shooting from the field and forced 32 turnovers.
“Wow, that’s pretty good,” said Turley, who followed up that statement with a giant laugh. “It’s a testament to the ladies to lock in and really take pride in stopping people. Mill Creek is a really good shooting team, so that says a lot for the ladies.”
Rockdale (22-7) was forced to play the game without two of their top scorers, two holes in their lineup that showed early. Leading scorer Shaquice May was out with a sore knee while freshman Nylah Williams was out with a finger injury.
As a result, the Bulldogs struggled on the offensive end in the first half, managing just 13 points at the break. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they held the Hawks to 2 of 19 shooting in the first half and forced 15 turnovers to lead by seven at the break, 13-6.
Any chance of a Mill Creek (12-15) upset was put to rest in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs scored on three of their first four possessions and went on to score 14 points in the quarter. On defense, the Bulldogs held the Hawks to just one point on 0-of-10 shooting and forced nine more turnovers.
“(Coach Turley) really wanted us to put the nail in the coffin in terms of sealing the game,” junior forward Stephan Sellers said of the Bulldogs’ third-quarter performance. “(Mill Creek) wasn’t as good as us. We just needed to prove it and make sure that they wouldn’t be able to come back in the fourth quarter.”
Leading the Hawks 27-7 heading into the fourth quarter, the game and victory was indeed sealed for the Bulldogs.
Rockdale played keepaway from the Hawks for much of the fourth quarter, eating tons of clock in the process.
Mill Creek’s Alexis Figures knocked down her first three-pointer of the game midway though the fourth quarter, snapping an 0-for-12 stretch shooting for the Hawks, but it was little too late as the Bulldogs were able to run out the final minutes of the fourth with victory never in doubt.
In two years as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Turley has helped lead them to the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back years for only the second time in program history. Rockdale last advanced to the second round in consecutive seasons in 1977-78.
“God is good,” Turley said. “I just appreciate every moment and opportunity that he allows me to coach these young ladies. I have a great coaching staff and great young ladies to work with.”
Sellers ended her night with a game-high 12 points while Alana Moore and Lia Edwards each chipped in with nine in the win. Mill Creek’s Sydnie Smith and Mina Heinjack each scored four points to pace the Hawks.
The Bulldogs will host No. 5 ranked Campbell in the second round of the playoffs next week.