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Special Photo/Reggie Davis Alexander senior Kiara Watson goes up for two points in the first half in the Cougars win over South Paulding in the Region 5-AAAAAA Tournament on Saturday.

Alexander raced to a big second-half lead and withstood a late rally to beat the South Paulding Spartans 64-53 Saturday evening in the consolation round of the Region 5-AAAAAA Tournament at Douglas County High.

With the win, Alexander improved to 16-10 overall and clinched the region’s third seed for the state playoffs while South Paulding fell to 19-10 and will be the fourth seed. Both teams will be on the road for next week’s state tournament.

“We had to forget about losing to New Manchester Friday night and focus on playing well against South Paulding,” Alexander senior Kiara Watson said. “I think we did a good job of that. We lost our big lead late, but we re-focused and played well enough to win. We have to stay focused for our state playoff game now.”

Senior Alliee Pattillo agreed.

“I think we were motivated tonight to get the third seed in the state playoffs,” Pattillo said. “We were hustling and we played well on defense against South Paulding. I’m happy we got the win.”

The game was tight in the first half, as Alexander led 16-12 after the first quarter and led 33-25 at halftime.

The Cougars broke the game open in the second half. A 3-pointer from Abby Crawford gave Alexander the 46-33 lead with 1:14 left in the third quarter and it took a 48-34 lead heading into the fourth.

Alexander played strong defense in the third, holding South Paulding to only nine points in the period.

Alexander increased its lead to 20 points, 56-36, with 4:20 left in regulation and the game looked like it would be a blowout. But South Paulding’s Kayla Frey scored eight consecutive points to lead the Lady Spartans on a 10-0 run, which cut the Alexander lead to 56-46 with 2:00 left.

Watson stopped the bleeding for Alexander with a layup and two free throws, however, and then held on the rest of the way to win by 11 points.

“I changed our lineup against South Paulding and it worked. We were focused and ready to play,” Alexander coach Adam Watts said. “We scored and rebounded well and we played together as a team.”

Mary Kate Eubanks led Alexander with 20 points and 13 rebounds, followed by 13 points each from Watson and Crawford. Watson also snagged 13 rebounds.

“Everyone had a role in helping us win tonight, from the starters to the bench players. We played pretty strong as a team and that was great to see,” said Eubanks, a sophomore.

Frey led South Paulding with 22 points and her teammate Bre’l Mackey chipped in 13.

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