Rockdale County defeats Archer 50-47; advances to Region 8 finals against Grayson Saturday

Rockdale’s Shaquice May attempts a shot on Archer’s Arianna Silva during last season’s Region 8-AAAAAA semifinal game.

ROCKDALE COUNTY BULLDOGS

Region 8-AAAAAAA

GIRLS

COACH: Sean Turley

2018-19 RECORD: 18-13

RETURNING REGULARS:

Shaquice May, 6-0, Jr.

Alana Moore, 5-8, Jr.

Alliyah McKnight, 6-0, Sr.

WHO TO WATCH:

Spirit Williams, 5-5, Sr.

Nylah Williams, 5-10, Fr.

Lia Edwards, 5-8, Fr.

Madison Presha, 5-8, Fr.

OUTLOOK: The 2018-19 season exceeded all expectations for the Rockdale County girls basketball team.

Winning 18 games and reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time in 15 years under the direction of a first-year head coach was a big reason why.But just as quickly as the season ended for the Bulldogs with a loss to Cherokee County in the quarterfinals, head coach Sean Turley turned the page.

“We got a taste, so it makes us hungry,” Turley said. “We want more. I wouldn’t say that we fell short last season because it’s basketball. Things like that happen. But once you get a taste, then you really want to eat. That’s our focus.”

Turley’s first order of business this offseason was geared towards evaluating a new-look roster that will be without three starters from last season. The Bulldogs say goodbye to 2019 graduates Diamond Swift, Desiree Ellison and Kourtlan Carter, all of whom played integral roles last season.

As tough as Turley said it is to lose three key pieces to graduation, it doesn’t take the second-year head coach long to crack a smile in regards to the players he has returning this season.

Shaquice May, the Bulldogs’ starting shooting guard and Alana Moore, the Bulldogs’ starting forward, both return for their junior seasons poised to take over as the team’s top two threats.

May averaged 10.2 points as a sophomore and drilled 39 three-point field goals while Moore averaged eight points and 7.5 rebounds, the second-highest mark on the team. Moore’s three steals per game led the Bulldogs.

“It’s a blessing,” Turley said of having Shaquice back. “Through our conversations over the summer, her mindset has really developed in what she’s trying to do. I like the commitment and dedication that she utilizes.”

As for Moore, the 5-foot-8 junior is ready to build off of a strong sophomore season.

“I think Shaquice and I will be a great duo,” Moore said. “Last year was very fun. Rockdale hadn’t been that far in a long time, so it was really an honor to be apart of that team.”

Along with the senior leadership of Alliyah McKnight, who is expected to play a much bigger role than that of last season, Turley pointed to his freshman class, a group that has impressed him thus far.

“We’re blessed to have a pretty good freshman group coming in,” Turley said. “They’re really, really hungry. I’m expecting big things from them.”

Nylah Williams and Madison Presha are two of the Bulldogs’ freshmen that Turley pointed to as making instant impacts this season.

The Bulldogs came within seconds of winning the Region 8-AAAAAAA title last season. It took a 61-60 double overtime loss to Grayson for the Bulldogs to settle for the region’s No. 2 seed, a region Turley expects to be very difficult again this season.

Turley said he learned several key things in his first experience leading a team through a varsity region slate and on into the postseason.

“Details,” Turley said. “The drills are all the same, but it’s about details. Minimizing mistakes and being able to capitalize off of mistakes. When we got to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, that was what it was about. Athletically and talent wise, it’s pretty even across the board. It’s those little things that can turn into wins and losses.”

The Bulldogs will kick off their season Saturday with a game against Loganville High School.

“From the core group that came back, their mindset is a lot better,” Turley said. “They’re putting in the work and they’re seeing this as an opportunity for them to put their stamp and leave their legacy.”

Sports Editor

A 2017 graduate of the University of North Georgia, Colin joined the Rockdale/Newton Citizen in March of 2018 as the papers' full-time sports editor. A 2013 graduate of Jackson County High School, Colin received a golf scholarship to Andrew College.