SONORAVILLE, Ga. -- Sonoraville was the team that started strong Friday night, but it was Kendrick which finished.
After falling behind 20-6 in the first quarter, the Lady Cherokees quickly worked themselves back into the game to take a halftime lead and then outlast the host Lady Phoenix in the second half for a 66-59 win in the second round of the Class 3A state tournament.
With the win, Kendrick (27-2) advances to the Elite Eight at Augusta University where it will face Beach next Friday at 3 p.m.
After the Lady Phoenix (23-6) got off to the fast start, Kendrick settled in to their full-court press and started to dictate the pace of the game. The Lady Cherokees used it to finish the first quarter on a 10-0 run to pull within four at 20-16 at the end of it, and then outscored Sonoraville 20-13 in the second to take a 36-33 halftime lead.
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"We like to play at a fast pace, and we did that at the beginning, we just didn't play very smart," Kendrick coach Sterling Hicks said.
"We had too many mistakes and bad shots at the start of the game. The kids were a little too jacked up.
"But this group has some fight in them. The way we play, we never feel like we're out of the game. They kept battling and took advantage of opportunities when we had them."
The third quarter started very well for the Lady Cherokees as they built an eight-point lead at 45-37 and looked like they were going to take total control of the game, but Sonoraville battled right back to tie it at 47-47 thanks to a 10-2 run.
Kendrick held a slim 51-47 lead going to the final period but put the game away with more pressure defense, some key buckets and free throws and big defensive rebounds.
Leading the way for the Lady Cherokees was Brittany Thompson with 23 points, including six in the crucial fourth quarter.
Jabreia Burston also had a solid night with 16 points, and Oriyana Babatua added 10.
Hicks said the gritty road win just gets his team one step closer to their ultimate goal.
"Our expectations are to win a state title, but we know we can't do that without taking each game one at a time," Hicks said. "We're ready for the next one now."
Friday at Sonoraville
Kendrick 16 20 15 15--66
Sonoraville 20 13 14 12--59
Baker 4, Price 3, Babatua 10, Murph 6, Thompson 23, Burston 14, Minor 6.
Abby Connally 3, Bowman 6, Becca Cheeks 23, Whitlock 4, Phillippi 7, Evie Delp 16.
Kendrick 28-2. Next: Kendrick, vs. Beach, state quarterfinals, 3 p.m. Feb. 26.