SUGAR HILL -- On a night when upsets and near-upsets abounded in the girls Region 8-AAAA Tournament, top seed Chestatee made sure it would not become a victim.
The Lady War Eagles shook off a slow start with a 20-0 run en route to 53-27 win over Monroe Area in the opening round Monday at Lanier High School.
The win moved Chestatee (22-4) into the Class AAAA state tournament for the fifth time in six years. The Lady War Eagles will take on Stephens County, which knocked off Lanier, in the semifinals. A day and time has yet to be determined because of inclement weather over the next few days.
The early games of the opening round saw No. 6 seed Eastside take down third-seeded Lumpkin County 46-42 and No. 2 seeded Walnut Grove survived an upset bid from No. 7 Madison County 45-42. Madison County missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Eastside and Walnut Grove will meet in the other semifinal.
Chestatee was an overwhelming favorite coming into the game after going undefeated in region play during the regular season. Sometimes those can be the most dangerous games of all.
"They can and we talked about that before the game," Chestatee coach Web Daniel said. "Those kinds of games can be tough because you can get a little too relaxed. A slow start but then we got going."
The Lady War Eagles forced nearly 30 turnovers, most coming in the first half and helped spark the decisive run. Daniel said their fortunes lie with their 3-point shooting and defensive intensity.
"We have to play good defense. I just told them to go out and play like they have all year. I was pleased overall," Daniel said. "I thought we played pretty well defensively, especially guarding the 3-point shot. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we have been but our defense really set the tone."
Chestatee came into the game as the state's best 3-point shooting team percentage-wise and started strong draining three of their first seven. But they would hit just 2-of-16 3-pointers the rest of the way.
The game was tight the first four minutes as the two teams traded the lead twice and were tied three times. But the Lady War Eagles exploded using their defense.
They forced four straight turnovers to ignite a 20-0 run into the second quarter. Chestatee turned 13 Monroe Area turnovers into 21 points in the first half.
When the dust settled Chestatee led 27-7 and had held the Lady Hurricanes scoreless over a 6:14 stretch. The Lady War Eagles also displayed their balanced attack on offense in the first half.
Bridgette Kelly and Tyler Bennett each had seven points and Deanna Bradberry, Kayla Watson, and Macy Jarrard each scored five points for Chestatee in the first half as the Lady War Eagles took a 34-15 lead into halftime.
Monroe Area opened the second half with a 5-1 run to pull within 35-20 early in the third quarter. But Chestatee responded with an 8-1 run to retake control.
The Lady War Eagles would led by as many 30 points, 53-23, late in the fourth quarter.
Kelly finished with 13 points to pace Chestatee. Bennett added 12 points and Bradberry had seven points as nine different players scored for the Lady War Eagles.
LUMPKIN COUNTY 42
The third-seeded Lady Indians became the first upset victim of the tournament after a poor night shooting as the Lady Eagles advanced to state.
Lumpkin County led early taking a 12-10 lead after the first quarter. But the Lady Eagles took control in the second and third quarters.
Eastside used a 14-8 second quarter to grab a 24-20 lead and then opened the third quarter with 7-2 run to pull away for a 31-22 lead. Lumpkin County answered with a 12-8 run to close out the period to trail 39-34.
The Lady Indians used a 7-2 run to tie the game at 41 midway through the fourth quarter, but managed just one free throw over the final 4:20 as Eastside hit several free throws in the final minute to seal the game. Lumpkin County missed its final nine shots of the game, including three with a chance to tie or take the lead in the final 30 seconds.
Junior Lacey Robinson paced Lumpkin County with 16 points. Senior Dakota Sullens added 11 in her final game for the Lady Indians.
WALNUT GROVE 45,
MADISON COUNTY 42
The second-seeded Lady Eagles got all they could handle from seventh-seeded Madison County before hanging on down the stretch.
Walnut Grove trailed 9-7 after the first quarter but used a 13-4 second quarter to take the lead for good, 20-13 at halftime. The Lady Eagles would take their biggest lead of the game, 32-19, late in the third quarter.
The Lady Raiders stormed back in the fourth quarter using a 19-10 run to pull within 42-40 with just over a minute left. The teams would trade free throws and Madison County had two chances to tie the game in the final 10 seconds but missed two 3-pointers, including one as time expired.
STEPHENS COUNTY 54,
In the opening game of the tournament, Stephens County knocked off Lanier 54-36 to advance to the state tournament. No individual scores were reported.