COLUMBUS — The Jefferson girls basketball team was overwhelmed by Kendrick, 73-35, in the first round of the Class AA state basketball tournament Tuesday at Kendrick high.
A year after getting eliminated in the first round by Buford, No. 3-ranked Kendrick never trailed and were never threatened by a Jefferson team that reached the postseason after finishing fourth in Region 8-AA.
Kendrick (28-0) took control early and never let up, scoring the game’s first 16 points before Tristan McGarity made a 3-pointer to get Jefferson (18-11) back to within 13 points at 16-3 with 1:03 to go in the first quarter. The Lady Cherokees led 19-5 after the opening quarter, with Kahlia Lawrence scoring nine points to lead the way. The Lady Cherokees continued to use their pressing defense and running offense to expand their lead in the second quarter, outscoring the Lady Dragons 16-12 to lead 35-17 at the break.
“I want us to be able to play a lot of kids,” said Hicks, who frequently subbed in five players at a time. “I’d hope that we can be a deep basketball team. I tell my kids we want to have 10 starters and no set group to start the game. I don’t want to lose a lot when we put in our second unit.”
Lawrence had 10 points in the first half to lead the Lady Cherokees, with Brittany Thompson adding nine and Deja Cheatham seven. McGarity had 10 at the break to pace the Lady Dragons.
Kendrick cruised in the second half, slowly building its lead to 51-27 heading into the fourth quarter before outscoring Jefferson 22-8 in the final eight minutes to turn the game into a rout. The Lady Cherokees’ biggest lead was 40 points, coming at 71-31 on a putback by Jasmine Merritt with just under two minutes to go in the game.
“The plan for us is to have balanced scoring and we got some of that tonight,” said Hicks. “We want to have four double-digit scorers every night so if people try to stop (Lawrence), we still have enough scoring to win basketball games. We’re going to have to have some people step up and be consistent with their effort if we want to go far.”
Lawrence scored a game-high 25 points to lead Kendrick, followed by Cheatham (14) and Thompson (13). Sarah Wood had 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half, to lead Jefferson. McGarity also had 10 — all in the first half — for the Lady Dragons in the loss.
Kendrick will host either No. 7 Greater Atlanta Christian or Dade County in the second round Friday at 6 p.m. Jefferson’s season is finished.