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Archer girls make history with state berth

SNELLVILLE -- Archer's basketball program has only been around for three years, hardly long enough to have much of a history.

But on Tuesday night, the Tigers started what may turn out to be a tradition as Archer defeated Central Gwinnett 47-45 in the quarterfinals of the Region 8-AAAAA tournament at Shiloh.

The win not only put Archer in the region semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. against Parkview, it also earned the Tigers a berth in the Class AAAAA state playoffs for the first time.

"Obviously, it's a historic win for us," Archer head coach Ryan Lesniak said. "Getting into the state tournament for the first time is an amazing accomplishment for us, considering our short history."

Archer, the tournament's fourth seed, floundered on offense the entire first half and struggled to find points in the early moments of the third quarter, trailing 25-19 with 4:11 left in the third.

But the shots that had been falling off the rim finally started to fall in for the Tigers (18-8) as Archer surged into the lead with an 18-2 run to close out the quarter with a 37-27 lead.

Kayla Rogers, who scored 14 points for Archer, sparked the rally with 10 points in the third, hitting three 3-pointers along the way.

"Numbers never lie and percentages are what they are for a reason," Lesniak said. "Rogers is our 3-point shooter and she kept believing in herself and finally got some shots to fall."

The lead was extended to a dozen early in the fourth when Central (13-13) started to hit some shots of its own.Taja Latimore, who led Central with 13 points and 12 rebounds, scored on an offensive rebound with 5:50 left to play to cut the margin to 39-29, starting a comeback that resulted in a 45-45 tie with 24 seconds left off a basket that Jackie Finnegan scored.

Archer took the ensuing possession and worked the ball around, finally getting a lane for Madison Newby to drive down, converting a layup with two seconds left to play. Central was out of timeouts and, by the time the ball had been thrown in, the clock read zeroes.

"I've got to give our girls credit," Central head coach Jason Adams said. "Despite our lack of size, we fought back and gave ourself a chance to win at the end. I felt we didn't play bad tonight, its just that (Archer) made one more good play than we did."

Danicka Brown led Archer with 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds, while Newby finished with 13 points, four steals and three assists. Cii Cii Marseille led the Tigers in rebounding with eight.

Caryn Ivey finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for Central.

South Gwinnett also joined Archer in the region semifinals and state tournament with a 56-42 win over Berkmar.

South, seeded third in the tournament, led 19-5 after the first quarter and made it stand, weathering a steady comeback by Berkmar.

"We've been battling the flu all week and I'm just glad to get out of here with a win," South head coach Jamie Kruppa said. "This is the second year in a row we've gone to state. That's quite an accomplishment for us but we hope we aren't finished yet."

Two South players struck for double-doubles, getting 14 points and 11 rebounds from Tiffany Jenkins and 11 points and 11 boards from Yvonna Dunkley. Samantha McCombs and Jashawna Johnson also each added 13 points for the Comets (17-9).

"That group has been very solid for us all year and has stepped up when we needed them," Kruppa said of her top four scorers.

The slow start for Berkmar (8-18) ultimately proved to be too much to overcome despite a strong shooting performance from Amy Adame in the second half. Adame hit five 3-pointers in the last two periods to lead the Patriots with 15 points.

"We've done that all year," Berkmar head coach Todd McCutcheon said. "Usually when we've gotten in a hole, though, we've been able to get out of it. We came into tonight not wanting to give up second-chance opportunities and (South) had seven of those in the first half and took advantage of them."

Berkmar, which trailed 28-12 at the half, got as close as 11 points at 51-40 with 3:23 left, but was able to get no closer. Daijah Cooke and Nina Williams each scored nine points for Berkmar, with Williams grabbing eight rebounds, while JaTaja Washington finished with eight points and 10 boards.

South will play Brookwood in the tournament semifinals on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Shiloh.