CONYERS - The Rockdale Bulldogs advanced to the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs with a 68-50 win over the Murray County Indians on Saturday.
Rockdale will face the winner of No. 1 Miller Grove and Sandy Creek in the second round Wednesday.
The Bulldogs were forced to leave the confines of their home gym for Conyers Middle School after a water leak due to rain.
Even though it wasn't their actual home court, it was a good substitute as many of the players on the team played middle school ball there.
"A lot of these players attended this middle school, so they felt like they were home," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said. "I was the middle school coach here and we won a lot of ball games. It kind of felt like a homecoming to us. We tried to turn that negative of having to leave our gym into a positive."
One player not affected by the move was Rockdale freshman Darien Clark.
Playing in his first high school playoff game, Clark had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Clark entered the game for the first time in the second quarter and quickly took charge, scoring eight points and bringing down seven rebounds.
"That's my freshman. He really does a good job when he listens and follows instructions," Williams said. "He came in with determination. He basically willed us to a victory. He came in with the energy we expected him to come in with."
It did not start well for the Bulldogs. After Rockdale took a 6-0 lead, the Indians went on a 14-0 run before Rockdale closed the gap to 16-12 at the end of the period.
Murray County's rebounding helped it take the early lead. The Indians outrebounded Rockdale 10-2 in the first quarter.
"We didn't move the ball on offense well, and because we didn't move the ball on offense well (Chandler Puryear) and (Tanner Long) were able to stay in the lane. So whenever we put up a shot, they were already there," Williams said. "I think once we started to move the ball, well we rebounded better. Of course a 6-6 freshman really helps in that area."
Once Clark entered the game, the Bulldogs outscored Murray County 17-4 in the second quarter.
One way Williams was able to get the game back in control was by forcing Murray County to play into Rockdale's press, causing the Indians to play fast and substitute a lot more than they are used to.
"We pressured the ball well, and I knew they didn't play a lot of guys traditionally, so I thought eventually that would catch up to them," Williams said. "We normally play around 11 guys. Everyone on our bench can play."
Pacing the Bulldogs on the scoreboard was Julius Giles with 15 points. Also scoring in double figures for Rockdale were Clark, Byron Lawrence (13) and Kevin Ware (10).
"Julius is the type of kid that could come out and score 30 or 35 points, but he has sacrificed in order to play team basketball," Williams said. "I just appreciate what he's done so much ... for our team sacrificing his own game just to buy into the team concept because he could light it up if he wants to."
Leading the Indians in scoring were Long (15), Chase Sanford (12) and Puryear (10).
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.