Holding a 34-33 lead with 16 seconds to play, North Murray High School’s girls basketball team was mere seconds away from taking the first state tournament victory in the program’s history.
But an Elbert County steal and transition basket gave the Lady Blue Devils a 35-34 victory over the Lady Mountaineers in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament Tuesday night in Elberton.
“Just a heartbreaker for my kids,” North Murray coach Keith Robinette said. “There was nothing more that they could have done as far as effort.
“Those girls played their guts out.”
In other state tournament action Tuesday, Dalton’s girls had slow starts to both the first and second halves while falling 73-43 at Redan in the Class 4A bracket.
North Murray (17-12) got the ball to the half-court line after Elbert County (22-7) missed a free throw that would have tied the game, but a steal from behind — and a pass for the layup — gave the Lady Blue Devils the lead with six seconds left. North Murray, out of timeouts, had its ensuing long in-bounds pass stolen and the game ended.
“We tried to throw it long and it was stolen, and that was it,” Robin-ette said. “When they scored, I think that was the loudest gym I have ever been in.”
The game was a defensive contest from the start, with Elbert leading 10-8 at the end of the first quarter, and the two teams combined to score just 10 points in the second period as the Lady Blue Devils took a 15-13 lead to the locker room.
“It was back and forth all night and just a battle,” Robinette said. “It was a defensive game, and the refs let us play physical. Both teams really got after it on the defensive end of the floor.
“We had to make it a low-scoring game and limit their transition points.”
North Murray came out hot in the third quarter and took a 25-21 lead into the final period, throughout which the teams traded the advantage on the scoreboard.
The Lady Mountaineers were led by Abigail Bradley’s eight points, while Megan Pittman finished with seven. North Murray graduates seven seniors — Casey Chapman, Lindsey Ray, Hannah Hensley, Daryn Thomas, Abigail Bradley, Dara Dople and Meagan Spivey — from this year’s team, the first to compete in the state tournament.
• Redan girls 73, Dalton 43: The last thing Dalton coach Jeff McKinney wanted was for his team to be overwhelmed by the speed of the Lady Raiders.
Unfortunately for the Lady Catamounts, it happened twice.
Redan started the game with a 10-1 run, then used a 16-1 outburst in the third quarter to blow things open.
“It was real similar to our game against River Ridge,” McKinney said in reference to the Lady Cats’ loss in this past Friday’s Region 7-4A tournament semifinals. “We had opportunities to score early, and we just didn’t score. We dug an early hole, and could never really get out of it.”
Despite the slow start, Dalton was able to hang with the Lady Raiders — ranked No. 3 in 4A by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — in the first half. Dalton (21-8) trailed 22-11 at the end of the first quarter before matching Redan (24-2) bucket for bucket in the second quarter to trail 35-24 at the half.
But the Lady Cats scored just five points in the third quarter as the Lady Raiders took a 57-29 lead into the fourth.
“Give a lot of credit to Redan,” McKinney said. “They were quick and athletic and they crashed the boards well. But I don’t think they are 30 points better than us.”
The Lady Cats made their return to the state tournament after falling in the region tournament last season and being denied a shot at state one year after finishing second in Class 3A.
Seniors Maddie Howell, Taylor Behr, Sarah Stinnett, Brooke Thomas, Mollie Snyder and Carson Sharp end their careers at Dalton.
Howell finished with 21 points and was the only Dalton player in double figures. Redan had three players score in double figures.