LILBURN — The Grayson boys are going to the state tournament in the highest classification for the first time, but there was no time to celebrate.
The Rams (21-5) have another first to try for after Monday’s 53-45 victory over South Gwinnett.
Grayson will play Shiloh at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the 8-AAAAAA semifinals at Berkmar and need a victory to advance to its first region title game.
No. 3 seed Grayson split with the No. 2 seed Generals (17-9) in the regular season.
“It’s the rubber match,” Rams coach Geoffrey Pierce said.
For a few moments against South (9-16), it looked like Grayson’s season might end prematurely.
The Comets took a 38-36 on Chris Bennett’s 3-point play three minutes into the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Jordan Dilwood put the Rams ahead for good at 43-40 with just under three minutes left and Grayson held on a the foul line.
“I’ve been bringing them in at insane hours and they’ve been working hard on their free throws,” Pierce said. “It was nice to close out a game making them.”
The Rams, who have struggled on free throws this season, made 9 of 14 down the stretch to finish off South’s upset bid.
C.J. Brown led four double-figure scorers from Grayson with 14 points, going 6-for-9 at the line. Marquise Lanier and Austin Morris each had 13 points for the Rams, while Dilwood scored 11.
Aaron Udell had 11 points to lead South.
Down 6-5 after the first quarter, Grayson finally got going in the second quarter thanks to seven straight points by Brown. The Rams finished on a 9-2 run, taking a 19-15 halftime lead on a rebound basket by Trevian Sconiers.
Grayson, up 27-21 midway in the third quarter, led 34-30 going into the fourth. South, though, then went on an 8-2 run to take a brief lead and give the Rams a scare.
“I’m happy for our players,” said Pierce, in his second season at Grayson. “Making the state tournament has been our goal and this was the last chance for the seniors.”