The second-ranked McEachern girls basketball team appears ready for another deep postseason run.

Jillian Hollingshead scored 28 points and the Indians’ tuned up for that run with an 84-32 victory over rival Hillgrove in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs Tuesday at McEachern.

Hollingshead, a 6-foot-5 center who has signed with Georgia, was more than Hillgrove could handle inside, adding 14 rebounds and setting the tone early by scoring six of McEachern’s first 12 points.

The victory sets up a second-round matchup for McEachern at home Friday against Region 4-7A runner-up Grayson, which advanced with a 65-45 victory over Lowndes. Grayson will be trying to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in school history.

McEachern (16-4) won five state championships in six seasons between 2012 and 2017 but lost in the semifinals in 2018 and was eliminated in the quarterfinals or earlier the past two seasons.

“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.]”

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