Rashard Smith had a pretty good role model as the point guard at Dublin.
His older cousin, Ben Smith, commanded the Irish during Rashard Smith’s freshman season, one that ended with a state championship.
After Thursday night, Smith is one step closer to following in the footsteps of the Jacksonville standout.
Rashard Smith scored 18 points and handed out eight assists, Sherrard Brantley scored 23 points, and Chris Smith added 16 points as the top-ranked Irish (30-1) beat No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian 75-61 in the GHSA Class AA semifinals at the Coliseum.
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Dublin will play No. 4 Blessed Trinity on Saturday for the AA championship.
“We have some pretty good games in (Laurens County) over the summer,” Rashard Smith said. “Ben and the other guys come back, and we go after each other. It helps us learn a lot.”
Rashard Smith learned leadership from his cousin, and that was key on Thursday coming out of the half.
After falling behind and trailing from most of the second quarter, the Irish battled back to tie the Spartans heading into the half.
The first three minutes of the third quarter, however, were the difference as the maturity of the seniors took over.
“We really thought we ran them in the second quarter and they got tired,” Dublin head coach Marvin Latham said. “We wanted to come out with a quick start in the third quarter. Rashard’s a special player, and he got us started with some dribble penetration.”
Rashard Smith darted into the lane and dished the ball to Sherrard Brantley for a 3-pointer and Chris Smith found an opening for two mid-range jumpers to help Dublin go from a one-point deficit to a six-point lead.
“I think that was the difference,” Brantley said. “That got us started, and we got in control.”
The Irish didn’t stop with that burst, rather continuing on a 10-4 run that pushed the lead to 10 points for the first time all night. They shot 9-of-15 from the floor in the quarter.
“There was a lot of dribble penetration and we had trouble slowing down their point guard,” GAC head coach Eddie Martin said. “They have a great team, but I felt like we had a pretty good team, too. I thought we played even with them the entire first half, but those first few minutes of the third were the difference in the game.”
Dublin maintained a 10-12 point lead for most of the fourth quarter, keeping ahead with its free-throw shooting. The Irish went 15-of-24 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
The Irish also did a better job of controlling the Spartans’ standout post player Trent Wiedeman. The 6-foot-6 junior scored 15 points in the first half, spinning around defenders and getting to the basket for layups.
Dublin adjusted to get defenders in front of and behind Wiedeman, denying him the ball in the paint. He finished with six points in the second half, but had only one made field goal.
“We knew we had 15 fouls to give (with our three post players) on him,” Latham said. “So we just cycled guys in and out and made sure we played him physical.”
DUBLIN 75, GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN 61
Dublin 16 16 20 23—75
GAC 15 17 14 15—61
Dublin: Rashard Smith 18, Sherrard Brantley 23, Chris Smith 16, Tawaski King 4, Trent Barnes 5, Jermaine Devoe 6, Ramahd Thomas 3.
GAC: Trent Wiedeman 21, Elliott Long 8, Julian Horton 8, Dylan Harper 4, Paul Dawson 1, Taylor Metzger 8, Bo Hebert 10.
3-pointers: Dublin 4 (Brantley 3, R. Smith); GAC 6 (Hebert 2, Horton 2, Metzger 2).
Records: Dublin 30-1, GAC 28-4.