CONYERS — It didn’t matter whether Erykah Davenport was on the court or on the bench Friday, Tucker had enough to hold off Salem. Davenport had 14 points and six blocked shots, Nuba Jackson scored 16 points and the Tigers extended their lead when Davenport was in foul trouble as the DeKalb County school prevailed, 53-42 in a Class AAAAA second round game.
Tucker (25-4) advances to next week’s state quarterfinals, the program’s first Elite 8 appearance since 2004, to play Region 6-AAAAA rival Miller Grove. The Region 8-AAAAA champion Seminoles had their nine-game winning streak snapped and finished 19-11.
Palm Beach Atlantic University signee Nikkira Brown, playing in her final high school game, made a nice feed to Shay Tarver on the baseline and Tarver converted a layup and a free throw to get the Seminoles to within 39-32 with 4:24 left to play.
But Tucker maintained its lead over the final four minutes, thanks to a put back by Davenport, six of Najla Shamsid-Deen’s 13 points and 4 of 6 free throws from Jackson. The Tigers never let the lead fall below seven and led by as many as 12 at 44-32 with two minutes to go.
“(Salem wasn’t) ranked but we knew they were tough. I knew it was going to be tough,” Tucker coach Robin Potter said.
Davenport picked up her third and fourth fouls 25 seconds apart late in the third, but Tucker extended its lead with its star post player on the bench. The Tigers turned a 29-24 lead into a 35-24 cushion as Tori Robinson capped the 6-0 spurt with a pair of free throws at the 1:03 mark.
Davenport remained on the bench at the start of the fourth, but her fellow post players, Aniya Hamilton and Taylor Booker, helped keep Salem at bay. The pair hooked up on a layup with six and a half minutes left and with Davenport back on the court, Salem could only get as close as 45-38 at the 1:36 mark on a 3-pointer by Brown.
“Our kids did not ever quit, we wanted to just fight all the way to the end. They never thought they were out of this game,” Salem coach Rochone Dilligard said. “I can’t be anything but proud.”
Tucker led 15-5 after one, but the visitors didn’t score in the first 4:11 of the second quarter and Salem climbed back into the game.
Ayana Mitchell had four of her game-high 19 points (she also added 21 rebounds) points during a quick, 7-0 spurt that made it a 15-12 game with five minutes left.
Tucker got four of Shamsid-Deen’s seven first-half points to get the lead back up to seven at 21-14. Mitchell, who already had a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds in the first 16 minutes, scored the Seminoles’ final six to make it a 23-20 at halftime.
Salem started slowly, picking up just two field goals in the opening quarter. Meanwhile, Tucker fed Davenport often and she picked up all six of her first half points within the opening six minutes of the game.
Brown, who finished with 11 points and four assists, made a tough, baseline runner to get Salem to within 9-5 with a little less than three minutes to play in the first. The Tigers scored the final six points of the period as Nuba Jackson had a pair of field goals and assisted on a bucket by Davenport for a 15-5 advantage.