LILBURN - There were no smiles for Emmett Rouse.
His South Gwinnett basketball team just thumped Grayson 78-51 in the Region 8-AAAAA tournament to earn the school's first playoff berth since Rouse took over the program a year ago. Four Comets scored in double figures, his point guard had dished out nine assists and the defense held Grayson to just 17 of 45 shooting.
"They were not aggressive enough in the first half," Rouse said of his team. "This is playoff time, it is win of go home."
With Tuesday's win, South gets a slight reprieve from its coach's all-or-nothing approach. With a playoff berth intact, the Comets are just playing for seeding and momentum entering the tournament. They play the winner of tonight's Central Gwinnett-Dacula game.
"It gets you in the playoffs, but I won't be happy unless we win the region," Rouse said.
South may have lacked intensity, but Grayson lacked something, too.
Led by 11 first quarter points by Adonis Harrison, South outscored the Rams 22-6 in the first quarter, forcing seven Grayson turnovers while hitting 10 of 15 from the field.
Harrison led all scorers with 25 points, including 6 of 6 from the free throw line.
"What can I say about A.D.?" Rouse asked of Harrison. "He's a ball-hawk. He is huge on rebounds and huge from inside and on the perimeter. He may be 6-2, but he plays like he is 6-6."
A team-high eight rebounds gave weight to Rouse's assertion.
Grayson tried, on its first possession, to set a slow tone for the game dribbling near midcourt and forcing the South defense to extend. But its cold shooting let the Comets pick up the pace and run past Grayson.
The Rams made a small run in the second quarter.
Justin Coogler and Andrew Osemhen each scored five in the second and the Rams trailed by 12, 34-22, at half.
But South's missing intensity showed up in the third quarter with the Comets kicking off the half with a 9-3 run and ending the quarter with nine straight points. Grayson missed two free throws early in the quarter that could have cut the deficit to 10, but after the misses, the Rams never got that close again.
"I was happy with the way we came out in the third quarter," Rouse said. "In the fourth, we got a little sloppy."
Before the starters left the game, South played most of the fourth quarter on a fast break, passing through Grayson's full-court pressure. "We just have to keep working," Rouse said.