LAWRENCEVILLE -- Both coaches in Friday night's boys clash between Archer and Dacula summed up what turned out to be a typical night in the neighborhood rivalry -- and in the increasingly rugged Region 8-AAAAAA -- the same way.
"It was a grind for both teams," Archer coach Tim Watkins said after his Tigers survived for a 52-46 senior night win to stay a half-game back of Shiloh for the region lead. "There wasn't anything pretty about it, but it was, obviously, a fun game with two good teams just getting after each other for 32 minutes. There was not any letup from either group."
That was true throughout a strong defensive first half in which neither team led by more than three points, and ended with Archer (19-5, 12-3) holding a scant 21-18 lead.
But as intense as the game was throughout, things really began to heat up late in the third quarter with the Tigers still leading by four points at 32-28.
Some pushing and shoving on an inbound play from the baseline underneath the Archer basket led to an offensive foul on Archer post Aubrey Overby, plus matching technical fouls on Overby and Dacula's Zentavious Cobb with 2:48 left in the period.
With Overby having picked up his third personal foul shortly before the incident, it spelled the end of the night for the 6-foot-8 senior with five fouls.
And it marked the beginning of a slew of whistles that resulted in the bulk of the 42 combined fouls whistled on the two teams, with each team having two starters foul out -- 6-5 Kelvin Nwanze joining Overby on the bench less than a minute into the fourth quarter, and Dacula (16-7, 8-6) losing leading scorer Jaylen Williams, and later Cobb, to fouls.
"This is no different form the first time we played (Archer)," Falcons coach Russ Triaga said. "It was a game where probably neither team played their best game, but both teams really proved how resilient they really are."
And that began to show as each team looked to other sources of production with the attrition of its key players.
Archer got big bench contribution when John Gillis, who had three points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals off the bench, came up with a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup that gave the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 44-37 with 3:38 remaining.
Dacula answered with a 6-1 run, with reserve Cameron Lewis hitting a key bucket and freshman Kevon Tucker adding a free throw to go along with Brandon Goodson's 3-pointer to pull the Falcons as close as 45-43 with 1:49 left.
But the biggest play off the bench may have come after Dacula got the ball back and appeared to tie the game when Tucker drove the lane for a layup.
However, Kwei Kwei Lartey, who had come into the game when Nwanze fouled out, had already established position in the lane and drew the offensive foul from Tucker -- the second charge drawn from the 6-2 sophomore in the game -- to keep the Tigers in front.
"It's funny, we're talking about senior night ... and the plays of the game were a sophomore coming off the bench to take two charges," Watkins said. "The two charges and two rebounds in the fourth quarter, and he's a kid who doesn't get a whole lot of time on varsity."
But with the game on the line, Archer looked to two of its senior leaders down the stretch.
Though there were some key missed free throws by both, Randall Smith did come up with two big driving layups and a free throw and Nafis Floyd added another free throw in two attempts over the final 1:48 to help the Tigers hang on.
Smith finished with 19 points to tie for the game's high-scoring honors, and added six rebounds and four steals on the night, while another senior, Bryan Hamlet, chipped in 11 points, five rebounds and two assists. Floyd finished with nine points, all from the foul line, a team-high nine rebounds and three steals.
Goodson led Dacula with 19 points to tie Smith for game-high scoring honors, while Williams had 11 points and three assists before fouling out.
The Falcons also got seven points and four rebounds from Tucker, plus nine rebounds from Cobb.
Dacula girls 40, Archer 36
Faustine Aifuwa had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots as the Falcons (7-16, 5-9) broke a six-game losing streak and upset the second-place Tigers (16-8, 10-5).
Star Toomey also posted a double-double for Dacula with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Jonnae Johnson had four points and four assists, Katy Daniels added five points, six rebounds and two steals and Anazjah Mayes contributed four points and solid defense.
Madison Newby scored a game-high 17 points to lead Archer, while Alesha Mann added eight points.