SUWANEE -- When halftime rolled around between Dacula and Peachtree Ridge on Saturday night, Dacula head coach B.J. Roy said his team was right where he wanted it.
The two squads had been involved in a physical battle, a tempo that favored the Falcons, allowing Dacula to trail by just four points at 22-18.
But the shots that had been falling for the Falcons weren't there in the second half, giving the Lions their opportunity to turn up the tempo in their favor, eventually pulling away for a 52-37 win to open up the Class AAAAA state playoffs with their ninth win in a row.
The reward for their efforts will be a home game next Wednesday against the Lassiter-Alpharetta winner in the second round.
"Dacula was really physical and tough," Peachtree Ridge head coach Keith Arrington said. "Xavier Okoro was killing us on the inside as they were getting second shots on the boards. We didn't handle that well at first but we did a better job in the second half of defending them."
Okoro, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds to lead Dacula, helped the Falcons off to their good start with 10 of those in the first half.
But points were hard to come by for Dacula (15-14) in the second half as the Falcons missed their first 12 field goals after the break, getting just two points in the third period off free throws.
"We had two lay up opportunities in the third quarter that we missed," Roy said. "We had to burn a timeout after that to try and regroup. Peachtree Ridge came back and scored a couple of baskets and we never recovered from that.
"The tempo was right for us in the first two-and-a-half quarters, but (Peachtree Ridge) picked it up from there. They're a good, physical team."
The sequence Roy referred to began early in the third. Bryson Burlong had just hit two free throws to pull Dacula within four at 24-20 with 5:55 left in the third, but that would be all the offense Dacula would muster in the quarter.
Benny Johnson, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds for the Lions (20-9), hit a bucket to start an 11-0 run.
That run would be finished off by Jordan Capps, who put in the next nine points for the Lions.
Capps finished with 17 points, four rebounds and five blocks.
Davon Hill also gave Peachtree Ridge a big lift, coming off the bench to score 17 points. The Lions got off to a slow start shooting, hitting just 3 of 12 shots in the first quarter. But Hill was on, hitting three 3-pointers in the second quarter, helping get the Lions shooting back on track.
"We have several guys that can come in a do several things," Arrington said. "We seem to be peaking at the right time and that's what you want to do this time of year."
The Lions led by 12 at the start of the fourth and were never seriously challenged. Peachtree Ridge also took advantage of a couple of breaks, getting six free throws in a row (one flagrant foul and two technical fouls) that resulted in five points, while also having a Dacula basket erased when the officials missed a blatant goal tending call on a shot by Okoro.
Brandon Goodson of Dacula also had a solid game with 12 points, getting 10 of those in the fourth quarter.