Defending state champion Dreher opened the Class 3A girls basketball state playoffs with a 66-33 first-round win against overmatched Blue Ridge at home on Monday.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils (20-6) were presented with a bonus home date in Thursday’s second-round play, thanks to Seneca’s upset of Region 3 champion Union County.
“This is the best we’ve played in a long time,” coach Teresa Jones said. “We played hard, we played together and we really picked up the defensive intensity. We also played smart, taking advantage of our height advantage. We wanted to go inside-out, and the girls did a good job with it.”
The beneficiaries of the inside focus were post players Makayla Johnson and Jhileiya Dunlap, who combined for 33 points.
Johnson, a 6-foot-3 junior, tallied 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting in three quarters. She also had four rebounds, one block, two assists and two steals in an all-around performance.
“That was, by far, Makayla’s best game of the season,” Jones said. “She started slow because she was coming off knee surgery and played a little tentative at times, but she was strong tonight.”
Johnson set the tone, scoring nine points on 4-for-4 marksmanship as the Blue Devils raced to a 21-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Dunlap, a 6-foot-2 freshman, scored 14 points, hauled in six rebounds and blocked five shots.
“If can keep this up, getting the ball consistently inside to Makayla and Jhileiya, we’re going to be hard to beat,” Jones said.
Junior star Kaydra Duckett led the Blue Devils with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Senior Jazmine Robinson came off the bench to contribute four points, five assists and four steals.
Blue Ridge only could counter with outside shooting. It worked in the early going.
The Fighting Tigers hit three 3-pointers and were within 15-11 at the 3:22 mark of the first quarter before the Devils went on a 6-0 run over the final 1:48. It began with a Johnson score off a pass by Robinson and ended with a Robinson breakaway layup off a steal.
Blue Ridge trailed by double digits the rest of the way, except for a brief, seven-second span in the second.
Ross Mathias led Blue Ridge with 15 points, but the Fighting Tigers lack of inside production led to a dismal 20 percent (11-for-54) shooting performance. The visitors were 4-for-23 from the field in the second half.