Marietta made an early exit last season from the Class AAAAA girls basketball playoffs. Call it an aberration.
The eighth-ranked Blue Devils (24-4) took control of this year’s first-round game at Marietta on Tuesday by outscoring Roswell 17-2 over the final five minutes of the first quarter, then blew it open with a 16-1 run to start the second half and cruised to a 69-30 victory.
Marietta advanced to a second-round matchup next week at two-time defending Class AAAAA champion Norcross. Roswell finished 12-16.
Senior guards Jasmine McSwain, Trana Hopkins and Courtney Sprague smothered Roswell with their full-court pressing defense. McSwain led Marietta with 19 points, followed by Hopkins with 17.
“McSwain’s a tremendous athlete, and for some reason a lot of teams seem to forget about her, which is a good thing,” Marietta coach Ken Sprague said. “Courtney’s been around for a while, so they know what she can do, and they try to stop her. Trana’s out there handling the ball, and they forget that Jasmine can score. And she can score easier than anybody because she can get off on the break, she can beat you off the dribble, she can post you up and she can hit 3s.”
Marietta led 27-18 at halftime before pulling away in the third quarter. The Blue Devils held Roswell without a field goal for the first four minutes of the second half as they extended their lead to 43-19. Valerie Shields finally stopped the run with a 3-pointer at the 3:59 mark and hit another 3 later in the quarter, but Roswell made just one other field goal in the second half.
Roswell took an early 7-0 lead that and prompted Marietta to call a timeout less than three minutes into the game. When the Blue Devils returned to the court, they were a different team. Marietta took its first lead at 10-9 on Kehera Wilson’s follow of a missed shot and extended the lead to 17-9 by the end of the quarter. Roswell never recovered.
Andreona Keys finished with 13 points and Shields had nine to account for 73 percent of Roswell’s offense.
The Blue Devils were eliminated from last year’s tournament by Mill Creek in the first round, marking the first time since 2004 that they had not reached at least the second round.
“We weren’t [in the second round] last year, but we were the previous six years,” Ken Sprague said. “It feels good. These girls are deserving.”