January 30, 2013

Halle Ford delivers in end for Lady Bruins

Devin Golden

— Halle Ford only had two of the Northwest Whitfield girls basketball team’s 37 points at the time.

The junior point guard’s next three were the most important.

Ford’s 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left completed the Lady Bruins’ comeback Tuesday in a 40-39 Sub-region 7B-4A victory at rival Dalton.

With the game tied 37-all, Taylor Behr made a layup with 27.6 seconds for the Lady Catamounts (17-6, 6-2), and a timeout set up the final offensive play for the Lady Bruins (14-7, 5-2). Autumn Blackwell drew a double team and passed from the top of the key to Ford, who was open in the corner.

Her 3-pointer rolled in, giving Northwest its first lead since an 8-7 advantage halfway through the first quarter. Dalton was forced to call timeout and try a last-second rebuttal.

“I wasn’t going to let them score,” Ford said.

Dalton’s Brooke Thomas had a good look, a jump shot in the lane with around two seconds left, but it was slightly off to the right. Northwest grabbed the rebound and celebrated a revenge victory after being blown out 53-34 at home just two and a half weeks ago.

“The big thing I think is that we didn’t quit,” Northwest coach Greg Brown said. “The first time ... we got down and we never recovered at all. Tonight we recovered. ... We allowed 20 points in the first quarter and only 19 the rest of the way.”

After leading 20-13 after one period, the Lady Cats stretched their lead to 25-15 halfway through the second quarter. Northwest chipped into the deficit, trailing 25-18 at halftime and 29-26 after three quarters.

In the third quarter, Dalton’s first five possessions ended on turnovers.

“You’ve got to protect the ball,” Lady Cats coach Jeff McKinney said. “You can’t have that many turnovers and win big games.”

Maddie Howell’s 3-pointer stretched Dalton’s lead to 34-28 in the final quarter, but Northwest trimmed the deficit to 36-32 with 4:36 left. Neither team scored a field goal for the next four minutes as the game came down to execution on free throws.

Howell made 1 of 2 while Taylor Behr missed both of her attempts for Dalton. Blackwell and Alice Ann Barber each made 2 of 2 from the charity stripe, and Macy Weeks made 1 of 2 to tie the game at 37.

“I think both teams were tired,” McKinney said. “We were both fatigued, and they hit the big shot at the end and won.”

The result puts both teams, and Southeast Whitfield, with two losses in sub-region play and in a tight race for a top seed in the Region 7 tournament. Northwest and Southeast play Friday, while the Lady Raiders and Lady Cats play next Tuesday.

“Some things have to happen,” Brown said of his team’s chances to finish first after entering the game in third place. “I think it’ll come down to some tiebreakers.”

Howell led all scorers with 18 points, while Blackwell added 10 points and six rebounds to lead Northwest. The Lady Bruins’ Kaitlin Wade, who had seven points in the first quarter, finished with nine.