GLENN HILLS 63, CAIRO 45
Glenn Hills showed off its swagger first. Then played with some.
"Swagger" was how Chris Reynolds and Jerel Stephenson described a team decision to come out in matching skin-tight white undershirts Friday in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs against Cairo.
"Just a little unity swagger thing," Reynolds said. "To key us in on the fact we've got some business to do in the state playoffs."
There was no first-round upset by a fourth-place team from another region this time. Stephenson came up with 11 points in the third quarter to spark a 63-45 victory.
"That was the difference in the game," Cairo coach Isiah Chance said. "He was the difference in the game. That No. 22 (Stephenson) took off and took us down. Give him credit. He's a great player. That's what big players are supposed to do in big playoff games."
Stephenson scored the first seven points in the third to end any threat of a repeat 81-77 setback from fourth-seeded Shaw in last year's playoffs.
"I was definitely feeling the swagger then," he said. "We had to come with it after the half. We were only up by two. Last year our problem was we let Shaw hang around and get a little hope. We couldn't have them hanging around thinking they could get an upset. We had to take them out early in the second half."
The Spartans (25-2) will play host to Jordan (27-1) on Tuesday night. Jordan has spent most of the season ranked first or second in the Georgia Sportswriters Association Class AAA poll.
Cairo (16-9) shook the Spartans from the tip with an early 7-2 lead over the first 1:30 of play.
"I had to get a timeout," Glenn Hills coach Richard Wallace said. "Just to settle the boys down and let them know this was a big basketball game we were playing."
Stephenson wanted no part of a repeat slip in the first round.
"I was thinking, 'Here we go again,'" said Stephenson, who finished with 20 points. "But in the back of my mind I was thinking about the times we played Washington County and they jumped out on us and we were able to come back and win."
Glenn Hills roared back. The Spartans came up with dunks on four of their first six baskets.
Stephenson added six steals and three assists.
Senior point Reggie Middleton finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He did a fine defensive job holding Cairo gunner Terrance Bowman (12 points) to half his season scoring average.
Reynolds pitched in with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
"We got stunned a bit today but came back with good defense and a big run of our own," Reynolds said. "We wanted to get it baby. We are on a mission for state now."
Glenn Hills put up another strong defensive effort.
It held the Syrupmakers to 15-for-42 shooting and allowed them to get just eight offensive rebounds.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.