After a two-week layoff between games, GPS started sluggishly in its Division II-AA quarterfinal basketball matchup against Pope John Paul II. Questionable shot selection by the Bruisers kept the visitors in it.
But in the end, Chadarryl Clay put the opponents out of it.
Clay scored 17 of her game-high 28 points in the final 8:02 and the Bruisers held the Lady Knights at bay, advancing to their first state tournament since 2003 with a 67-50 victory Friday at GPS.
The Bruisers will play Friday at David Lipscomb in the state final four, against an opponent to be determined.
Simone Busby added 13 points and solid play on both ends of the floor as GPS overcame early foul trouble for center Jeneh Perry. Tory Kemp and Brianna Farris provided solid minutes off the bench in the team's biggest game of the year.
"The girls were so excited about playing before the game because they hadn't played in so long," GPS coach Susan Crownover said. "I was afraid that we were going to get in early foul trouble and we did, but Brianna and Troy came in and played well off the bench for us."
Crownover wasn't pleased with some of the early shots that went up, allowing the Lady Knights to take a 15-14 lead into the second quarter.
"It's like a turnover because we're taking shots early in the possession and we're not ready to rebound," she said. "We didn't always play smart tonight."
The Bruisers held the Lady Knights without a field goal in the second quarter in taking a six-point edge into halftime, then maintained a three- to eight-point edge in the third quarter before Clay took over.
She had a turnover that led to a Lady Knights 3-pointer in the final seconds of the period, but she came down and hit a 3 at the buzzer for a 44-38 margin going into the fourth. She followed that with 14 fourth-quarter points as the Bruisers spread the floor and created matchup problems, which led to layups or fouls.
"We were able to take them off the dribble, and Chadarryl took over at the end like a Miss Basketball finalist is supposed to," Crownover said. "Above all else, all these girls want to do is win."
Junior Sarah Galvin scored 27 points to lead Pope John Paul II, which has no seniors.
"It was a great game played by both teams," PJPII coach Julie Rollins said. "GPS did a good job of cutting off our passing lanes, but our girls did a great job of fighting back.
"We were just beat by a better team tonight."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.