Conyers Marist made sure the last memory of basketball being played in Rockdale’s gymnasium was a painful one for the hosts. Quinton Stephens scored 23 points, Brooks Doyle added 22 and the No. 4 seed War Eagles defeated Rockdale, 65-50 in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Marist (20-7) will play Region 6-AAAA champion Miller Grove in this weekend’s quarterfinals, while No. 3 seed Rockdale, playing in its final game in the 43-year old gym, had its season end at 20-8.
The War Eagles turned the game in their favor during a pivotal stretch in the third quarter. Rockdale held a brief, 28-27 lead on a 3-pointer by LaRonta Parks at the 6:17 mark, but Marist ended the quarter on a 17-7 spurt with 13 of the points coming from Stephens and Doyle to go up 44-37 after three.
In the fourth, Rockdale got as close as 46-42 on another three from Parks two minutes in, but Marist, which had already gone on the road and upset Region 5-AAAA champion Lithia Springs in the first round, used a methodical approach on offense and forced Rockdale to foul. The War Eagles were nearly perfect from the free throw line, putting the game away by making 17 of 18 from the stripe over the final 4:14.
C.J. Wilson, the Region 8-AAAA player of the year, led Rockdale with 20 points and Parks added 15.
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half. Marist built a lead as large as six points as Stephens showed his range. The 6-8 forward knocked down three 3-pointers in the half, hitting consecutive threes to give the visitors an 11-8 advantage after one. The last long ball from Stephens preceded a bucket by David Onuorah and put the War Eagles up 20-14 cushion with 4:00 to play in the second quarter.
Rockdale fought back, getting two of Wilson’s nine first-half points and five points and an assist from Darious Mitchell to finish the half on a 9-3 run that pulled the teams even at 23-23.