JONESBORO — The No. 1 ranked Lovejoy Lady Wildcats avoided a lull in Friday’s Class AAAAAA first-round matchup against Lakeside-Evans High, topping the Panthers 54-19 to advance to the Sweet 16.

Lovejoy took no time racing out to a 19-2 lead after one quarter. The Lady Wildcats didn’t allow Lakeside-Evans to score more than seven points in any quarter.

“We did what we were supposed to do to take care of the game,” head coach Cedric King said. “I still think there are a lot of things we have to clean up if we’re talking about winning the last game, specifically rebounding. We have to rebound way more aggressively if we’re talking about doing anything special. But, one game at a time. We did what we’re supposed to do.”

Avanna Preston scored five of Lovejoy’s first six points to open the game. Eight more points followed before Evans finally scored to cut the lead to 14-2 with three minutes remaining in the period. Genesis Bryant got hot toward the end of the quarter and finished with nine points.

Lovejoy was sloppy on the offensive end in the second quarter, but only allowed five points to take a 29-7 lead into the break.

The Lady Wildcats regained their offensive groove in the third quarter, scoring 19 points. The fourth quarter was shortened to six minutes due to the mercy rule, and King emptied the bench in the final period en route to the convincing win.

Bryant led Lovejoy with 16 points. Preston added seven points , while J’Auana Robinson recorded six points and seven rebounds. Mariah Spain had five steals and Kayla Brown grabbed eight rebounds.

Lovejoy was clearly the better team, but King said his team can’t become overconfident.

“The mental part is the biggest part of it,” he said. “To come out and have a game like this, you have to be even more focused and more concentrated. This can give you fool’s gold because the teams are going to be better. It gets better and better every round.”

The Lady Wildcats (28-1) will move on to the next round, where they will host Northside Warner-Robins, who beat Glynn Academy 49-29 Friday night. The game is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“Our schedule from the regular season is the main thing helping us,” King said regarding the road ahead. “Coming out of the region tournament, playing those teams, Tucker giving us everything they have — I think our region has helped us, our schedule has helped us. I’m not worried about it, it’s just about us continuing to get better at what we do.”

Luke Strickland is the sports editor of the Clayton News in Jonesboro and the Henry Herald in McDonough. He went to school at the University of Georgia.

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