Stephenson defeats Rockdale in opener

CONYERS - It looked a lot like a season opener for the Rockdale girl’s basketball team Tuesday.

The Bulldogs trailed by as much as 31 points as Stephenson rolled to a 79-53 victory in non-region play at Cleveland Stroud Gymnasium.

Kerry Watson scored 15 points and Terrianna Cave added 14 to lead four players in double figures for the Jaguars, a Class AAAAA state quarterfinalist a year ago.

Stephenson led by just eight points at halftime, but a strong third quarter helped the DeKalb County school pull away.

Watson had six of her points in the quarter and Shelbi McKenzie had five of her 10 as the Jaguars turned a 37-29 halftime lead into a 60-41 cushion heading to the final period.

Sydney Saxton led the way in the fourth quarter, chipping in with six of her 11 points as Stephenson built a lead as large as 79-48 on her steal and field goal with 1:50 to play in the game.

Rockdale, which reached the Class AAAAA second round a season ago, led briefly, at 10-7 on a 3-pointer by Brianna Patton midway through the opening period.

After Breanna Saunders hit one of two free throws, Charbornay Johnson’s put back tied the game at 10-10, and Stephenson didn’t trail the rest of the game.

Kayla Holmes and McKenzie each hit 3-pointers, part of an 11-2 run that put the visitors up 18-12 late in the first. Rockdale got as close as 18-17 on Bianca Riley’s field goal early in the second.

Stephenson built as first-half lead as large as 10 points on several occasions, the last one coming on Saxton’s bucket with 40 seconds left in the second quarter.

Despite turned the ball over 21 times, part of a 32-turnover evening, and lost Riley to a leg injury in the opening half, but the Bulldogs stayed in the game thanks in large part to Sydney Fields, Destiny Stephens and Brianna Patton.

Fields scored six of her eight first-half points in the final four minutes of the half, Stephens had three baskets during that same stretch and Patton picked up seven of her 11 points. Riley blocked shot and basket at the other end sent Rockdale into the locker room down just 37-29.

The boy’s teams from Stephenson and Rockdale played in the nightcap, which ended too late for this edition.