CHICKAMAUGA - One down. Three to go for Gordon Lee.
Behind 26-point explosions in the opening and closing quarters, the sixth-seed Lady Trojans moved into the quarterfinals of the Class A girls' public school state basketball tournament on Friday night, pulling away in the fourth quarter for an 81-55 win over No. 11-seed Greenville.
With the victory, Gordon Lee (22-7) will be at home in the Elite Eight against No. 14 seed Seminole County, who upset No. 3 seed and Region 4 champion Marion County on Friday.
"I don't know anything about who we are playing yet," said Gordon Lee head coach Lester Galyon, "At this point you just know you're going to be playing somebody good, but it will nice to play at home and not have to make a three or four-hour bus ride. Only eight teams are left and hopefully we can shoot it a little bit better next week, and keep doing what we've been doing defensively."
Gordon Lee's defense set the tempo right from the opening tip as two steals by Kassidy Blevins and a steal by Kalei Kimbrell led to three transition lay-ups and a 6-0 lead just 30 seconds into the contest.
"Anytime you're up 6-0 in 30 seconds, that's huge," said Blevins, who had a big night with 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and seven steals. "It gave us the momentum from the beginning and I don't think we really ever lost it. We were really determined to go out there tonight and get this win."
Although the Lady Patriots would answer with seven straight points to trim the lead to four, the Lady Trojans would push the lead back out to double-digits by the end of the first period and never led by less than eight points the remainder of the night.
Greenville used an 8-1 run to close to within 45-37 at the 3:08 mark of the third, only to once again have the Lady Trojans get the lead back to 12 points by the end of the period.
The flood gates finally opened up in the fourth quarter. Blevins went coast-to-coast for a three-point play, and Blevins and Kimbrell drained back-to-back three-pointers within seconds of each other to stretch the lead out to 69-47 just 2:30 into the final period. Gordon Lee would outscore Greenville 24-5 to start the fourth, and Katie Barger's trey with 1:32 to play gave the Lady Trojans their biggest lead of the night, 79-48.
"(Greenville) was a competitive team with some shooters that weren't bashful about putting the ball up," Galyon said. "They made their run when we stopped closing down in the middle of our defense, and they were driving right by us for some lay-ups, but it was good to see us right the ship down the stretch.
"Katelyn (Lee) did a great job of scoring inside and getting on the defensive boards. We thought going in that we'd have an advantage inside with her, and just about every time we reversed the ball and got it to her on the weak side where she could pin her opponent, it was pretty much a lay-up."
Lee led Gordon Lee with 22 points and grabbed a team-high 17 rebounds. Barger finished with 11 points, Taylor Hartline added eight points, and Sara Clayton came off the bench to grab eight rebounds and dish out five assists.
The Lady Trojans also limited Greenville's leading scorer, junior guard Kiyanna Johnson, to just 18 points. Johnson entered the game averaging a shade over 32 points per game. Keosha Dozier also had 18 for the Lady Patriots (18-9).
"We watched the film and there's no denying she's a really good player," Blevins said of Johnson. "We knew that if we could contain her, it would really increase our chances of winning. She found a way to score, but for the most part, I thought we all did a great job of playing defense on her. It was a good team win tonight."