The Grayson Rams controlled the game from start to finish and withstood the Pebblebrook Falcons’ best shot to escape with a 73-66 road win in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals on Wednesday in Mableton.
The eighth-ranked Rams (22-6), a No. 2 seed from Region 8, advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row. They’ll play sixth-ranked Meadowcreek — the Mustangs (No. 2, Region 7) beat Campbell 67-57 on Wednesday — at 8 p.m., March 3 at Buford City Arena.
The Rams controlled the paint, led by 6-foot-7 senior Terence Porter Jr. and 6-foot-6 junior Kenyon Jackson, who combined for 32 points and scored on an array of dunks and offensive putbacks.
“It was about playing hard,” Porter said. “We played the whole 32 minutes. We just wanted it more.”
The fourth-ranked Falcons (26-3), a No. 1 seed from Region 2, scored the game’s opening basket but never led again. The Rams led 21-12 after the first quarter thanks to the play of senior guards Travis Anderson and Nick Edwards, who eached scored seven points.
Grayson stretched the lead to double digits and led 42-28 at halftime, with Porter scoring 10 points in the second.
They led by as much as 17 in the third before the Falcons started to gain momentum — Pebblebrook’s Dwight Murray scored 13 points in the third quarter — and trimmed Grayson’s lead to 59-50 heading into the fourth.
Twice the Falcons pulled to within two, the last time coming with 2:14 remaining when Grant Howard’s basket made it 66-64 in Grayson’s favor. But the Rams would go 3-of-6 from the free throw line and got a field goal from D.J. Williams to build a 71-66 lead.
Meanwhile, the Falcons went 0-for-3 from the 3-point line, with the final missed attempt leading to a breakaway layup for Porter — plus the foul — which put the game away and brought the score to its final margin with 6.1 seconds remaining.
“Rebounding a free throws were the biggest difference,” Rams coach Geoffrey Pierce said. “That’s been the focus the last month or so. We’ve been telling them missed free throws and giving up offensive rebounds will end your season in February...We’ve got experience coming back from last year. That’s a good team — they went on their run but we didn’t fold. We just kept playing, so I’m proud of them.”
Grayson’s dominance in the paint was due in part to the Falcons playing without their leading scorer, 6-foot-5 senior forward Mervin James. Pebblebrook coach George Washington said James missed the game due to the flu.
“Mervin gave us 18 points (a game) so we missed that,” Washington said. “This time of year, you’ve got to stay healthy.”
With the loss, the Falcons’ season ends with yet another deep playoff run. They reached the quarters last year and were state runners-up in ‘16 and ‘15 and were semifinalists in ‘14.
“I’m proud of what these kids accomplished,” Washington said.
Grayson had four double-digit scorers, including Porter (18), Anderson (16), Jackson (14) and Edwards (13).
The Falcons were led by Murray’s game-high 25 points, followed by Howard (12) and Josh Graham (11).