Staff Photo: John Bohn Dacula's Faustine Aifuwa (44) guards Archer's Marissa Jordan (32) during the second period of a first round Region 8-AAAAAA Basketball Tournament played Tuesday at South Gwinnett High School. Archer defeated Dacula 58-46 to clinch a state tourney birth.
SNELLVILLE -- Ryan Lesniak wanted an up-tempo pace Tuesday night and the Archer girls basketball coach turned to Madison Newby to establish it.
The sophomore point guard succeeded in that mission from the start of the Tigers' Region 8-AAAAAA Tournament opener, fueling a 58-46 win over Dacula that locked up the program's second straight Class AAAAAA state tournament berth.
"Push the ball," Newby said of the game plan. "They have really big girls (at Dacula) and they play well. We pushed the ball and tried to beat them down the court for easy buckets."
Archer (19-7) trailed just once, at 4-2 just a few minutes in, and held the lead throughout with Newby leading the way. She finished with 29 points and eight assists, which meant she personally had a part in 45 of her team's 58 points.
Archer led 28-17 at halftime thanks to Newby's 12 points and six assists, kick-starting a win that sent the Tigers into Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal against the Berkmar-Central Gwinnett winner.
"She's our motor," Lesniak said of Newby, who also had five rebounds. "But she knows she couldn't do it without the people around her. I am proud of her effort tonight. She hit some clutch free throws down the stretch. She kept the pace of the game what it needed to be early and she made some good decisions late.
"Her ability to get to the hole is unparalleled. I don't think you can find another guard in the county who can get to the rim like she can."
Morgan Jackson (eight points, eight rebounds), Kayla Rogers (eight points), Alesha Mann (seven points, five rebounds) and Marissa Jordan (six points) also stepped up throughout for the Tigers, who withstood several comeback attempts from the Falcons.
Dacula (8-18) made several pushes late, but each time Archer answered with a timely shot, maybe the biggest from Mann, who hit a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter when the lead was down to eight points.
The edge was down to seven with three minutes left when Newby's three-point play made it a double-digit game. A scoring error cost Dacula two points moments later and the comeback was over.
The Falcons are extremely young, and that youth led the way in the tourney game. Freshman post Faustine Aifuwa had 19 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots and fellow freshman Jonnae Johnson had 14 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Star Toomey backed them up with seven points and 13 rebounds.
Eventually, Dacula couldn't overcome a 10-for-27 (37 percent) day at the free-throw line.
"(Aifuwa's) a big kid," Lesniak said. "She does a good job on the boards. But I thought we pulled some real key rebounds late in the fourth quarter to maintain a couple of extra possessions. They have no quit. They have plenty of fight in them. Coach (Lori) Fisher's obviously doing a good job with them."
Archer's coaches knew the frontcourt size was an advantage for Dacula, so they wanted to counter it with a faster pace. Newby and her teammates got the message.
"We had a week between games before (the regular season finale) with Shiloh and our priority going against Shiloh was to run," Lesniak said. "We ran against Shiloh. As you can see, we don't go deep, especially at the guard position. They expend a lot of energy on both ends of the floor. I'm proud of them to securing our second state tournament berth."
Parkview girls 63, Shiloh 19
When Davida White scored with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter, Shiloh's girls basketball team finally reached double figures.
It was that kind of night for the Parkview girls, who followed up their regular-season 8-AAAAAA championship with an impressive region tournament opener. The Panthers (26-0) took control from the start and coasted to a 63-19 victory that sealed a state tournament berth.
Parkview advances to play the Brookwood-South Gwinnett winner at 7 p.m. Friday in the semifinals.
Marissa Mandeldove had five of her six points in the game's opening minutes to spark the Panthers early. From there, they kept it rolling. They led 17-3 after the quarter and eventually went up 51-5 midway through the third quarter.
Raven Johnson led Parkview with 12 points and Bernice McGriff scored 10. Tatiana Wayne and Mia Marshall contributed seven points each.
White led Shiloh with nine points.