LOGANVILLE -- Through three quarters of a quarterfinal game against Winder-Barrow, C.J. Wilson hadn't done much scoring. But often the best players make their biggest impact in the final quarter, and such was the case for Wilson on Monday.
The Rockdale guard scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth and No. 1 Rockdale survived an upset bid from Winder, advancing to the semifinals of the Region 8-AAAA Tournament with a 61-58 victory.
Rockdale (18-7), the two-time defending tournament champions, nearly missed qualifying for the state tournament a year after reaching the state title game but advanced to play Cedar Shoals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
"That game could've gone either way," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said afterward. "I promise you, Winder-Barrow has gotten better. They don't even look like the same team than the first half (of the season)."
The Bulldogs led 49-43 when Wilson, a junior guard, reached the 1,000-point plateau for his career with a bucket at the 5:16 mark. But B.J. Worley scored six points during a 9-2 run that gave the Bulldoggs their first lead since the early stages of the game at 52-51. The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes before Wilson exploded for a layup and completed a three-point play to put Rockdale ahead for good at 57-56. Kendall Isler (team-high 15 points) got Winder to within 59-58 on a field goal with 30 seconds left, but on the next trip down the floor, Isler threw the ball away, letting Wilson hit two more free throws at the other end for the final margin.
"That was our halftime adjustment -- go to the basket," Williams said of Wilson, who only scored one point in the first half. "Things get easier when you listen. When in doubt, he defaults and listens to coach."
At the end of the third and beginning of the fourth, it looked as if Rockdale might be able to avoid any theatrics down the stretch. Wilson hit a three with 2:20 left in the third, but Winder (12-14) got a tremendous putback dunk from Trent Burton and off an offensive rebound, Burton found Jordan Banks for a short jumper that made it 41-38 after three. Wilson opened the fourth scoring the first four points, the last on a feed from Daron Scott, and Scott later found Adrean Brown for his only points of the night to make it a 47-40 game. But Winder, as it had done all game, made big shots and in the final four minutes no team had more-than a one-possession lead.
"It was enough to get it done," Williams said. "I think (Winder) gave it their all. That's a great team to play in the first round."