TUNNEL HILL, Ga. (WRCB) -- Northwest Whitfield didn't receive much of a reward for its first-ever boys' basketball region championship.
Four days after topping rival Dalton for their first 7-AAAA championship in school history, the Bruins' prize was a visit from sixth-ranked Grady in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
The Gray Knights lived up to their billing, jumping out to an early double-digit lead en route to a 62-46 win. Grady will now travel to Alexander in round two.
A packed gym rose to its feet as Northwest scored the game's first four points, but it quickly became an uphill battle for the Bruins after that.
O'Shea Hill, Northwest's tallest player at 6-foot-3, hit the bench after picking up two quick fouls. Grady overwhelmed an undersized Bruins' lineup with an 18-0 run over the next five minutes, opening an 13-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Bruins wouldn't go without a fight, though, as Tanner Quarles hit a pair of 3-pointers and sank three free throws in a 16-8 run that pulled Northwest within 28-23 midway through the second period.
The Gray Knights threw one last first-half punch by scoring the final six points of the half, pushing the lead back to double-digits at the break. It stayed their the rest of the way.
Quarles led Northwest with 17 points, while Tanner Bailey added ten and Hill finished with nine.
AVI Toomer led Grady with 16 points, while Kivon Taylor chipped in 15 in the win.
However, the opening round of the state tournament wasn't a total wash for North Georgia teams. Gordon Central, Calhoun, North Murray and Dade County all won their tournament openers Wednesday to advance to the second round.
Scores from Wednesday, February 20:
GHSA Class AAA Tournament - First Round
Grady 62, Northwest Whitfield 46
Marist 71, Dalton 42
Columbia 60, Gilmer 46
Class AAA - First Round
North Murray 69, Hart County 58
Gordon Central 47, Franklin County 38
Morgan County 61, Ringgold 34
Class AA - First Round
Dade County 80, Wesleyan 72 (OT)
Calhoun 58, Hapeville 54
Class AAAA Tournament - First Round
Marist 59, Northwest Whitfield 39