For one half Friday night at Kendrick, the Model Blue Devils hung with the undefeated Lady Cherokees, going into the locker room down 31-20.
It was in stark contrast from Kendrick's last game, a 99-20 thrashing of Manchester in the Region 5-AA tournament championship earlier this week.
However, Kendrick finally took control of the Class AA state tournament opening-round game in the third quarter, outscoring Model 28-6 to pull away and cruise to a 71-34 victory.
"We didn't play well," Kendrick coach Sterling Hicks said. "Model came to play in the first half, and we didn't do the things we were supposed to do. We just didn't play defense very well, and our shots didn't fall most of the game. Model just came out more aggressive than us."
With the win, Kendrick now hosts Westminster (12-15) in the second round Monday at 6 p.m. Westminster advanced by knocking off Rabun County, 69-56, Friday night in Tiger.
Model (9-18) showed no fear of Kendrick early on depite the Lady Cherokees' fearsome reputation -- Kendrick's average margain of victory is close to 50 points per game this year -- and the Blue Devils trailed only 15-10 after the first quarter. Rachel McFry hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening period to score six points keep the Blue Devils close.
"I felt like we really handled (Kendrick's) pressure well in the first half," Model coach Sally Echols said. "We got a little flustered in the first couple of minutes, but once we settled down, we did a good job for the rest of the half. But you can't just play well for a half if you want to beat a team like Kendrick. You can't compete for only three quarters."
Kendrick (27-0) was never in any danger in the second quarter, staying at least five points ahead of Model, but the Lady Cherokees never were able to make the decisive run that had taken out so many opponents this season. Brittany Thompson led Kendrick with nine points in the first half and Kahlia Lawrence had eight, while four different Blue Devils had at least four points, paced by McFry's six.
After a lengthy halftime talk from Hicks -- his players didn't return to the floor until just before halftime ended -- Kendrick put its foot on the gas and finally put some space between itself and the Blue Devils. Kendrick scored the first 18 points of the third quarter to go up 49-20 before a Hannah Clark layup with 4:58 to go in the quarter got Model its first points of the period.
By the end of the quarter, the Lady Cherokees had outscored Model 28-6 to build a 59-26 lead going into the fourth quarter. The final period was shortened to six minutes due to the GHSA's mercy rule and Kendrick cruised to the victory from there.
"I didn't tell them anything different at halftime," Hicks said. "In the second half, we just got back to the things we harp on and we did a better job of playing defense in the second half. We won and that's the most important thing. In the playoffs, it's not a beauty contest. We'll take the wins any way we can get them."
Lawrence led Kendrick with 18 points, Taylor Farley pitched in 10 and Donovan Dyson and Thompson finished with nine apiece for the Lady Cherokees, who had 11 players score in the game. McFry had nine points, Allie McDermont netted eight and Clark chipped in seven to pace Model offensively.
Friday at Kendrick High
Model 10 10 6 8--34
Kendrick 15 16 28 12--71
Clark 7, McFry 9, Upton 2, Smith 4, Tarrentine 4, McDermont 8. Totals 13 4-8 34.
A. Jones 3, Kahlia Lawrence 18, Dyson 9, McKissic 6, Murph 2, M. Jones 1, Thompson 9, Jack 2, Taylor Farley 10, Cheatham 4, Draper 7. Totals 29 12-19 71.
Records: Model 9-18, Kendrick 27-0; Next: Westminster (12-15) at Kendrick (Class AA State Tournament Second Round), Monday 6 p.m.