TUNNEL HILL —
For nearly a quarter, Northwest Whitfield High School’s girls basketball team seemed out of sync against Rome.
The rest of Tuesday night’s game looked up to par for the Lady Bruins.
Rome scored the first eight points, but Northwest followed with a 28-4 run for the remainder of the first half and won the non-region matchup at home, 59-31.
In the boys game, Rome did its job at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and won 68-59 to give Northwest its second loss in a row.
With the Lady Bruins (6-1) trailing 8-0 midway through the first quarter, Halle Ford put Northwest on the board with a 3-pointer.
“I intentionally didn’t call a timeout for a while,” Northwest coach Greg Brown said. “I wanted to see how it’d play out and how we would handle adversity, because we haven’t seen a whole lot in the last couple games.”
An 8-7 lead for Rome (1-7) entering the second quarter quickly became a 16-10 Northwest advantage after Ford hit another 3-pointer with 6:16 left. Northwest’s half-court trap defense continued causing problems for Rome’s offense, and a steal-and-layup by Ford preceded a steal and two free throws from Macy Weeks for a 22-12 lead.
Whitley Brooker sank a jumper at the buzzer for the 28-12 halftime advantage.
“Our intensity and our effort was better,” Ford said, noting that converting turnovers into easy buckets helped the team settle down.
Northwest’s lead stretched to 43-22 through three quarters and quickly became 48-22 during the fourth quarter when Bria Clemmons converted a steal-and-layup and Weeks made a free throw after tallying another Northwest steal. Mary Kate Allen’s layup with 5:16 remaining put the Lady Bruins ahead 52-22, their biggest lead of the game.
Northwest and Rome played two weeks ago at the Rome Thanksgiving Classic and the Lady Bruins won 78-34. Brown believes his players’ memory of the easy win played into the slow start.
“Once we got going, it really got going,” Brown said.
Ford led the way with 13 points, while Brooker and Allen had 10 points each and Clemmons added seven.
• Rome boys 68, Northwest 59: Landon Cable scored with four seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Bruins (2-2) a 40-39 lead.
That slim advantage didn’t hold.
Rome (4-3) started the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run capped by Malik Slaton’s steal and 3-point play. Led by a 32-point effort from Caleb Storey, Northwest battled to a 61-59 deficit but got no closer in a chippy game that included three first-half technical fouls and a slow-moving game without “any flow,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said.
“It’s stop, stop, stop for 32 minutes,” he added. “It’s hard to play basketball when there’s no flow.”
Richards noted that Northwest went 1-for-2 on free throws in the final quarter and Rome made 10 of 15 free throws.
He said it was “the same thing Saturday night,” when Northwest lost by seven to Tennessee’s East Ridge.
“Saturday night, they made as many as we shot in the fourth,” he said. “Tonight, they made (one more than) they won by. I don’t know. Maybe we’ve got to quit fouling. Maybe we are coming from behind.”
Northwest, which was ahead 25-22 at halftime, got seven points from Aaron Ball. Backup point guard Caleb Branson played the majority of the game after starter Tevin McDaniel received a technical foul in the first quarter.
“Branson came in and played like a warrior,” Richards said. “He played tons of minutes and ended worn out.”