ALPHARETTA — Central Gwinnett coach Jason Adams summed up his team’s second-round Class AAAAAA state tournament game at Alpharetta as succinctly as anyone could.
“To win at this level right here in this round, you’ve got to make shots,” Adams said.
The Black Knights didn’t make many — just 26.7 percent of their field-goal attempts and 33.3 percent of their free throws.
They also went scoreless for a 7:35 stretch of the first half as the host Raiders built a working margin en route to a 57-40 win Saturday at Alpharetta.
Kylee Smith finished with game highs of 25 points and 14 rebounds as Alpharetta (26-4) rolled into a meeting with top-ranked North Gwinnett in the state quarterfinals Tuesday at North.
But the biggest difference in the game came with frigid shooting from Central (18-11), which connected on just 16 of 60 shots from the field and 6 of 18 shots from the line.
“I can’t fault their effort,” Adams said. “We got good shots. We got to the free-throw line. We just couldn’t make shots.”
The Black Knights (18-11) held their own early on, especially on the boards, where they owned a 19-12 advantage in the first quarter.
But while both teams struggled with their shooting in the first half, which ended with Alpharetta leading 13-8, the Raiders — and Smith, specifically — started to heat up in the second.
The 6-foot senior scored 11 points in the period, including five during a run of nine straight Alpharetta points to start the quarter.
“I think we just settled down with our nerves,” Alpharetta coach Mike House said. “We started to focus and concentrate on our roles and responsibilities. And I think the game situation, just getting into the flow of the game, started to eliminate (Central’s) second-chance opportunities.”
It didn’t seem to matter whether it was first, second or more opportunities. Central simply couldn’t buy a basket in the first half.
After Lexus Travis’ stickback with 2:33 left in the first quarter, the Black Knights didn’t score again until Carol Reynolds’ layup with 2:58 left in the first half.
That drought helped the Raiders outscore the Black Knights 18-4 in the second quarter and balloon their lead to 31-12 by intermission.
“That’s when we went ice cold,” Adams said. “We came out, we were right there with them. In the second quarter, we went ice cold.”
The shooting got a little better for Central in the second half, as Alexandra Frazier went for 10 of her team-high 13 points, and the Black Knights actually outscored Alpharetta 28-26 in the final 16 minutes.
But by that time, the Raiders had built up a comfortable lead that reached as much as 27 points in the third quarter, and never got any lower than 16 points the rest of the way.
And playing catch-up the whole game began to wear on the Black Knights.
“We looked deflated (at halftime) because we weren’t making shots,” Adams said. “I think everyone that knows or plays this game or coaches this game or watches this game knows if you don’t make shots, It affects you. We talked about not letting it affect our effort, and I was proud of our effort. We came out and battled to the very end.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we belonged in this game. We could’ve won this game, but … (Alpharetta’s) big players, they stepped up and they made shots.”
Mostly it was Smith making the shots for Alpharetta, though the Raiders also got a big night from their other senior leader, Lauren Brown, who finished with 17 points.
While no other Central players joined Frazier in double figures, the Black Knights did get eight points form Briana McGee, and both Travis (six points, 12 rebounds) and Reynolds (five points, 10 rebounds) had a big day on the boards.