Maurice Dixon

@WriturRece |

ELLENWOOD (GA) – Cedar Grove didn’t have the best start but the Saints made the necessary adjustments.

Despite owning a clear advantage in height, athleticism and next-level talent, No. 1-seed Cedar Grove had to climb out of a hole against No. 2-seed Dawson County for a 64-52 home victory in the second round of the 2018 GHSA Class AAA playoffs February 22.

Senior Jamari Dean had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead the Saints, who will host Jenkins-Savannah in the Elite Eight.

For a healthy portion of the first half, the Tigers (19-10) forced Cedar Grove to compete in a jump-shooting contest with very little transition. Since Dawson County virtually nailed jump shot after jump shot, the Tigers were able to build a lead as large as seven while sitting back in a 2-3 zone, daring the Saints (23-6) to shoot from the perimeter.

But in the second quarter, Cedar Grove became a little more patient on defense while continuing to attack the offensive glass and as a result, a six-point deficit quickly turned into a two-point cushion. The score remained close until Tworn Seals (10 points, eight rebounds) converted a layup for a three-point play, which sparked a 7-0 run to end the half for a 35-28 score.

In the third quarter, the Saints’ ability to score in the paint, outside the arc and from the foul line kept them comfortably ahead even though the Tigers’ shooting from the outside remained consistent. Then in the final period, a 16-0 run extended Cedar Grove’s advantage to 20.

“We needed to speed them up more,” Cedar Grove coach Miguel Patrick said. “In the first half, we didn’t speed them up as much as I liked so we made an adjustment on our press. Instead of running zone pressure, we played man and we switched everything in our halfcourt defense just to keep pressure on them so they couldn’t breathe.”

Cullen Reed and Jeremiah Crumley (six assists) both scored 15 points and fellow senior Ryan Gallenkamp added 12 for Dawson County, which made seven 3-pointers.

“They came in and shot lights out,” Patrick said. “We seen them on film and they shot lights out on film so we expected that. I didn’t think they would shoot that well but hey they are a tough opponent and in the Sweet 16 for a reason. I’m just glad we came out on top.”

Keshun Byrd scored 10 points for the Saints, who have won 12 straight games.