The mood inside Carver's locker room following its 62-50 victory over Swainsboro Wednesday night in the opening round of the Class AAA state tournament was more befitting a loss than a win in front of a home crowd.
Few conversations were held and those that were going on were held in hushed tones.
Coaches, including Tigers head coach Warren Beaulah, had looks upon their faces that said they knew they'd just dodged an upset bullet.
"Sometimes you have a team that when they accomplish a major goal like we did (winning the Region 2 tournament Friday), the kids get complacent," said Beaulah, whose team hosts No. 3 Johnson-Savannah in the second round Saturday.
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"I saw it (Tuesday) in practice. The kids were loose and not focused. We weren't focused and that's what led to this being such an ugly game."
Swainsboro (8-18) -- the No. 4 seed from Region 3 (a region with just five schools) -- stayed with Carver (16-10) for most of the game and had two chances to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, but missed shots on both possessions.
Carver was able to use an 11-3 run midway through the fourth quarter to open up some breathing room and hold on for the victory. Marqui Hawkins, a Florida football signee, provided the spark for the run, scoring 10 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter.
"This time of year, there's no tomorrow," said Beaulah. "We're in the second round and that's all that matters. I'm more upset at the lack of focus than anything else tonight, but the main thing is we moved into Round 2."
Hawkins' stellar play in the fourth quarter came after missing a pair of layups following two different steals earlier in the game. Both teams missed numerous layups and easy shots throughout the game and each turned the ball over 20-plus times, leading to a game that lacked an offensive flow for most of the contest.
"I'll tell you what happened with Marqui," said Beaulah. "He missed those layups and I pulled him from the game. I didn't pull him because he missed the layups. I pulled him because he gave up on the play after missing the layups. After I pulled him, I sent an assistant to explain to him what happened and he said, 'I got it.' I put him back in and he was ready like no other time during the game."
Carver didn't score for the first 4:48 of the game, but Swainsboro only managed four points during that span, so the Tigers' slow offensive start wasn't severely punished.
The teams were tied at 12 after one quarter and Carver put together a 9-1 run late in the second period to take a 29-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Wednesday at Carver High
Swainsboro 12 11 15 12--50
Carver 12 17 11 22--62
Somerville 5, Marquis Sherrod 11, Dixon 4, Davis 2, Strowbridge 8, Howard 6, Riddles 9, Akins 5. Totals 17 15-26 50.
Colon 6, K. Pass 4, McGee 6, Marqui Hawkins 18, Kimiun Woods 13, J. Pass 6, Harris 1, Brown 2, Reese 6. Totals 26 7-13 62.
Records: Swainsboro 8-18, Carver 16-10; Next: Carver vs. Johnson-Savannah (Class AAA State Tournament Second Round), Saturday TBA