LOGANVILLE -- It wasn't meant to be for the Rockdale girls basketball team.
After a 20-win regular season and a No. 1 seed secured with a victory over rival Salem on the final night of the season, the Bulldogs were eliminated from the Region 8-AAAA tournament by Clarke Central 46-44 in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
Rockdale (20-6) was trying to get back to the state playoffs for the second consecutive season, but let No. 4 seed Clarke (12-13) erase a seven-point second-half lead to pull off the upset.
Rockdale ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run and led 40-33 heading to the final period, but that's when the Bulldogs' offense went cold. While the subregion champions failed to score a point for more than five minutes, Clarke scored the first 10 points of the period and grabbed its first lead of the game at 41-40 on a bucket by Ebony Fleming.
The lead was 43-40 before Rockdale finally ended its drought on two free throws from Kree Clark, then took the lead back at 44-43 on the final two of Brianna Lawrence's 17 points. That was the last time Rockdale would score. Euniqua Smith hit a go-ahead bucket at the 2:19 mark for the Gladiators, and trailing by two with four seconds left, Breanna Richardson couldn't get a potential-tying runner off before the buzzer.
Rockdale had leads of nine points in each of the first two quarters, but couldn't put the pesky Gladiators away. Trailing 11-2, Clarke didn't get its first field goal until 49 seconds remained in the opening period, but still closed to within 11-6. In the second, Rockdale went up 17-8, but seven quick points -- five coming from Cierra Jackson (game-high 21 points -- for Clarke made it a two-point game. Clarke tied the game for the first time at 33-33 when Smith hit a jumper at the 3:22 mark of the third.
Clark scored all nine of her points in the second half and Richardson added eight, though just two came after halftime.