“I’m pleased with where we are now,” McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur said. “We’ve still got a chance. I don’t like the bracket the way it’s set up, because now we’ve got Grayson and if we make it through that we’ve got [top-ranked] Collins Hill. And then if we make it through that we’ve got [No. 3] Cherokee before we even cross over to the other side. But it is what it is. I don’t care. I want to play the best and beat the best and be in there with the best.”
Lauren Render put Hillgrove (6-14) ahead 2-0 on the first possession of the game, but it would be the Hawks’ only lead as McEachern scored the next 12 points to seize early control.
Hillgrove trailed 25-10 when Render went to the bench after picking up her third foul with 6:46 remaining in the second quarter, and McEachern outscored the Hawks 20-3 in the remainder of the period to lead 45-13 at halftime.
Hillgrove never got closer in the second half than 30 points, and the Indians put the finishing touches on the victory by outscoring the Hawks 18-2 in the fourth quarter.
Caelan Ellis and Kiarah Cole-Massiah added 12 points each for the Indians. Cole-Massiah scored all of her points in the first half, and Ellis had 10 in the third quarter. Sianny Sanchez-Oliver and Kristen Roche added eight points each. McEachern got points from 11 players.
Render, a junior who was named first-team all-Region 3, led the Hawks with 15 points.
Hillgrove and McEachern, located 3 miles apart in west Cobb County, played in the same region for the past 10 seasons but were separated when McEachern was moved to Region 2 at the start of this school year. Hillgrove was the No. 4 seed from Region 3 this season, while McEachern won the Region 2 championship.
McEachern has won 13 of 14 games since a 3-3 start, but the Indians hadn’t played since an 88-57 victory on Feb. 13 against fourth-ranked Campbell that clinched championship in Region 2, which did not play a region tournament. Arthur said she noticed some rust from the 10-day layoff.
“I still feel like we were just moving in quicksand,” she said. “I knew there was going to be a little rustiness, but I told them we’ve got to get that out between now and Friday. To me, we were just a little slow, a little slower than normal. But it was just too much Jillian and a lot of shooting [that made the difference against Hillgrove.]”