SUWANEE -- The Dacula girls registered a modest upset in the first basketball game of the Jared Cook Classic. Then the Central Gwinnett girls outdid them, pulling off a big one in the second game.
The Black Knights, who came in with just a 2-6 record, stifled previously unbeaten Salem with their aggressive defense and stunned the bigger Seminoles 43-34 on Tuesday at North Gwinnett.
"We've had trouble scoring all season," Central coach Jason Adams said. "I've told the girls that we have to keep playing hard on defense and let that carry us as far as it can. It got the job done for us this time."
The victory carried the Black Knights into Wednesday's 12:10 p.m. semifinal against Dacula, which defeated Chapel Hill 46-30 with another good defensive effort.
"We've had trouble getting over the hump," Dacula coach Travis Young said. "This is a good way to start Christmas vacation."
Central and Dacula (4-6) are Region 8-AAAAA rivals, so the tourney semifinal will be a preview of region play. The teams have the first of two region games on Jan. 7 at Central.
Salem (9-1) led Central 18-14 at halftime after holding the Knights to two free throws in the second quarter. But Central went up 23-22 at the end of the third quarter and used a 9-2 run to lead by 10 points with 2:04 to play.
Nia Hardy scored half of her team-high 12 points in the final quarter and Taja Latimore had six blocked shots and five rebounds to go with her 10 points. Lexus Travis had nine points and seven rebounds, while Caryn Ivey contributed seven points and four steals. Alexandra Frazier added three steals as the Knights swiped the ball 10 times.
Ayanna Mitchell scored 11 points to lead Salem before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Danielle Thomas added 10 points, but eight of them came in the first quarter.
Joni Weatherspoon had nine points and 10 rebounds for Dacula in its victory over Chapel Hill (5-3). Kendelle Culpepper added eight points, and Meghan Bush, Anazjah Mayes and Anna Machovec each scored six points. April Green dished out three assists.
Dacula jumped out early, leading 15-5 at the end of the first quarter. The advantage was 24-12 at halftime and 30-22 going into the final quarter.
Ashley Chestnut led Chapel Hill with 10 points. Salem and Chapel Hill will open second-day tournament play today with a 9 a.m. game.