SNELLVILLE -- Rockdale freshman guard Lia Edwards showed no fear in the opening minutes against Grayson, scoring six points, stealing one pass and dishing out one assist to help give the Bulldogs an early double-digit lead.
Leading the Rams by six heading into the second quarter, the Bulldogs never let their lead dip below three points from that point forward and went on to cruise to a 45-32 win after holding Grayson to just 13 second-half points.
With the win, the Bulldogs advance to Saturday’s Region 8-AAAAAAA finals against Archer. The Rams will battle Newton in the tournament’s third-place game, a team they swept in the regular season.
“I’m very proud of them,” said Rockdale head coach Sean Turley said, who has coached the Bulldogs into the region finals for the second year in a row. “We’ve been preaching all week patience, composure and discipline. I think today they really bought in and really did well.”
Edwards went on to score a game-high 15 points while junior Shaquice May joined her in double-figures with 10. Freshman Nylah Williams scored nine in the win and junior Alana Moore scored five.
“She’s a knockdown shooter,” Turley said of Edwards. “I don't know, maybe (Grayson) wasn’t expecting her to hit those shots. But we knew that she’s done it all season. When she hit the first one, then the second and third ones, you could see that level of confidence rising.”
The Bulldogs took a 24-19 lead into halftime behind Edward’s strong first half and did not allow a point from Grayson for the first five-plus minutes of the third quarter. Rockdale scored the first eight points of the third and led the Rams 32-19 as a result.
Grayson shot just 27 percent from the field in the first half and turned the ball over five times.
After opening the third quarter missing their first eight shots, Grayson sophomore Catherine Alben broke the scoring drought for the Rams with a three-pointer to trim the deficit to 10 points.
The Rams went on to score two more baskets to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to six before Rockdale ended the quarter with four straight points.
Heading into the fourth quarter with a 36-26 lead, the Bulldogs kept their foot on the gas and scored the first four points of the quarter to extend their lead to 14 on a Stephan Sellers floater.
Struggling to hit shots, Grayson never trimmed Rockdale’s lead to single digits in the fourth quarter. Grayson standout Victoria Dames was held scoreless in the game and shot 0-for-10 from the field after scoring 16 points against the Bulldogs last Friday.
The Rams shot an even lower percentage from the field in the second half, shooting just 18 percent on five made baskets. Alben was the only Ram to reach double figures with 14 points. Malia Grace was the next closest with nine.
All-in-all, Rockdale held Grayson to 22 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers.
After falling short in last year’s region championship to Grayson, Turley said his team has an opportunity to redeem themselves Saturday.
“I know for us, it’s probably unfinished business,” Turley said. “It’s a blessing to have that opportunity. The girls have worked really hard all season and it’s a blessing to be back in it. Our goal is to go in there and take care of our business, play hard and put it on the line. We’ve come this far and we want to win it.”