GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The top two seeds from the North side of Region 8-4A made sure there would be no upsets Monday night at the Lynn Cottrell Center.
Top-seeded Chestatee stormed out to a 14-2 lead and then cruised to an easy 82-41 win over Cedar Shoals, while No. 2-seeded Cherokee Bluff opened the night with a 59-43 win over Madison County.
With the victories, both teams moved into the semifinals of the Region 8-4A tournament and secured spots in the Class 4A state playoffs, which begin next week.
Cherokee Bluff (21-4) had to shake off a slow start to get past the Lady Red Raiders and push their win streak to eight straight.
Chestatee coach Sutton Shirley said they used that first game of the night as motivation in their quick start.
“We were watching Bluff and Madison in a battle, and we talked about coming out strong and proving a point,” Shirley said. “I thought we did that. We’re playing with a different intensity level right now.”
The Lady War Eagles (21-5) never trailed as Riley Black poured in 17 of her game-high 33 points in the opening frame. She came into the game needing just 19 points to reach the 2,000-point mark. She hit that with her first basket in the second quarter.
“Riley has been a special talent. She works hard and has been a role model for the other girls,” Shirley said. “They see how hard she works and how she does the little things to get better every day, not just the 4 (p.m.) to 6 but all the other time she puts in.”
Chestatee led 33-9 at the end of the first and took a 59-20 lead into halftime. The starters played the beginning of the third quarter before turning it over to the bench.
Caroline Bull had 12 points, and Jamya Weaver had 11 for the Lady War Eagles.
Next up for the Lady War Eagles is Walnut Grove, who knocked out North Hall, 68-46, on Thursday at North Oconee in the semifinals.
“We beat them back in December when we weren’t playing that well. But (Walnut Grove) are well-coached, and we will have to play up to our abilities if we want to get to the finals.”
For Cherokee Bluff, the third quarter was the difference. The Lady Bears. exploded for 26 points, sparked by 11 from Claire Carlson, and hit five 3-pointers as a group to turn a slim 20-19 halftime advantage into a 46-30 lead.
Bluff head coach Kassie Scott said some “tough love” was what was needed at the break.
“I just told them I thought we were the better team but that we just needed to play better and do what we had been all year long,” Scott said.”They just needed to calm down. They did that and executed much better.”
Carlson had just one free throw in the first half and took just four shots. The sophomore came alive in the third quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and two running floaters as well to finish with a team-high 12 points.
“I told her at halftime we need her shooting every game, whether they go in or not,” Scott said. “When she kept shooting, they started to go in. That’s what we need from here.”
Madison County looked poised for the upset right from the start. After Bluff jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 90 seconds, the Lady Red Raiders answered with a 10-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Sarah Blackmon, for a 10-5 advantage late in the first quarter.
The Lady Bears finally got a spark when Audrey Graham hit a 3-pointer near the end of the first quarter and then opened the second with a 6-2 run for a 16-13 lead. Madison County reclaimed the lead 17-16 on a pair of free throws from Jordyn Hall, but Bluff rebounded to take a 20-19 lead at the half.
The Lady Bears built a 21-point lead early in the fourth quarter and then cruised the rest of the way.
They will get North Oconee, the No. 1 seed from the South, in the semifinals on Thursday at North Oconee. The Lady Titans knocked out East Forsyth, 74-62, on Monday to advance.