Sharife Cooper scored 34 points to lead McEachern to a 78-48 victory over Roswell in the opening round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs on Friday.

POWDER SPRINGS — McEachern launched its defense of its state title in impressive fashion with a 78-48 win over Roswell in the first round of the Class AAAAAAA state boys basketball tournament at Lovinggood Arena on Friday.

The Indians led from start to finish and were never threatened as they advance to the second round to host South Forsyth either Wednesday or Thursday.

Sharife Cooper scored 34 points — 24 of them in the second half — while Cam’ron McDowell added 16 points and Randy Brady contributed 12 to lead the way for McEachern (20-5), the top-seeded team from Region 3AAAAAAA.

George Pridget scored 24 points to lead Roswell (13-14), which made it to the state tournament as an at-large team.

McEachern certainly didn’t waste any time in taking over the game as it jumped out to a 12-0 lead.

Cooper got things started with a layup, then McDowell was fouled after a Roswell turnover and hit both of his free throws to give the Indians a 4-0 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. McDowell dunked the ball on an ally-oop pass from Cooper and Israel Palmer scored on a transition layup to make it 8-0 with 4:34 to go.

After Roswell turned the ball over again on an offensive foul, Brady drove in for a layup to increase the Indians’ lead to 10-0 with 3:04 left.

After McDowell made a pair of free throws for a 12-0 McEachern lead, Pridget finally ended the Indians’ run with a layup with 1:51 to go.

However, that would turn out to be the only scoring of the quarter for the Hornets as McEachern ended the period up 17-2.

Roswell would never get within single digits of McEachern for the rest of the game as the Indians led 33-19 at halftime and 53-31 at the end of the third quarter before expanding their lead over the Hornets to 30 at the end of the game.

“I thought we moved the ball on offense and shot it pretty good,” McEachern coach Mike Thompson said. “Of course, being at home, that’s a huge advantage — getting to play the first round at home, the kids feel comfortable here. Defensively, we played good. I just felt good about it all around. We did a lot of good things. We’ve played better the last three or four games. We’re playing together. We moved the ball around a lot better. Hopefully, we can continue to do that as long as we possibly can.”

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