KATHLEEN -- Rivalry games provide a healthy level of stress for players, coaches and fans involved.
That feeling is magnified in a region tournament.
Peach County found that out Monday night.
The Trojans squandered a 16-point second-half lead, but recovered to pull away from Perry for a 66-58 win on the first day of the GHSA Region 2-AAA tournament at Veterans.
Talented freshman Ahmed Hill managed 19 points despite never finding a rhythm from the floor. Terry Sams made four 3-pointers and finished with 15 points, while Reginald Bryant pitched in 16 for the Trojans. Rashad Toliver led four Panthers in double figures with 16 points, while Jikeriel Harris added 15.
Peach County (9-15) will play top-seeded Central at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Trojans jumped out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter and increased that advantage to 16 points midway through the third quarter.
But Perry (6-19) started to chip away at the lead with its aggressiveness on defense and overall hustle.
The Panthers went on a 15-0 run that gave them a 51-50 lead following a Deonte Soloman basket early in the fourth quarter. During that run, the Panthers forced three consecutive turnovers off their press and converted those into eight points. They forced two other turnovers during the run, and scored twice on offensive rebounds.
Peach County bounced back from its only deficit of the game with its own 8-0 run. Four different players contributed to the eight points. Perry got as close as three points on a layup by Harris with four minutes to play, but the Trojans made eight six throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Veterans 75, Rutland 65
The Warhawks (12-14) led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but they still needed to hold off the hard-charging Hurricanes for the win in their postseason debut.
Wyman Hollingshed, Jabari Leggette and Chandler Watts all scored more than 15 for the Warhawks, who were led by Hollingshed’s 17 points. Alex Gary scored 19, and Darrius Tucker added 18 for Rutland.
Rutland (6-20) cut a 16-point halftime deficit to nine in the first two minutes of the third quarter, but the Warhawks’ lead ballooned back to 18 with a 9-0 run.
Rutland closed the third quarter with its own 9-0 run and would get as close as five early in the fourth quarter.
The lead was five again in the final two minutes of the game before Veterans made seven free throws in the final 50 seconds to provide the needed cushion.
The teams split three-point wins in the regular season.
Mary Persons 53, Perry 23
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs (13-12) exploded for 21 points in the first and third quarters and held Perry scoreless in the third quarter to earn the blowout win in the opening game of the girls’ bracket.
Kendria Buckner led Mary Persons with 18 points, and Emily Davis and Asia Buckner added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Mary Persons will play Rutland at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the quarterfinals.
“The pressure is always tougher for that first game,” Mary Persons head coach Kurt Greene said. “Now we can just go out and play basketball. I really think anyone can win this tournament.”
Veterans 48, West Laurens 43
Veterans didn’t score for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Warhawks (6-19) played solid enough defense to allow only two points to West Laurens -- in that same span eventually holding off the Raiders to win their first-ever postseason basketball game.
Mikia Robinson led the Warhawks with 14, while Jasmine Riley and Kerrigan Poe-Cochran added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The 48 points were the most for the Warhawks since they scored 56 in a Dec. 7 win over Howard.
“I think we hit a breakthrough point two weeks ago,” Veterans head coach Mark Gisseman said. “We started coming together and playing better.”