February 24, 2014

No. 1 Redan too much for Northwest Whitfield girls

STONE MOUNTAIN — Northwest Whitfield High School girls basketball coach Greg Brown sees a difference between the game played on north Georgia courts and those in Atlanta.

But while Brown believes programs in and around the state capital remain superior as a rule, he also believes the Lady Bruins started erasing that gap this season.

Northwest’s state tournament run ended Monday in a 67-35 loss at Redan, the No. 1-ranked team in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Class 4A poll. Redan advances to the quarterfinals as it aims for its first state title since 2009.

Northwest, meanwhile, enters the offseason looking back to the strides made during the program’s best season in four years. The Lady Bruins finished with a 24-5 mark.

“The gap between north Georgia and Atlanta is right here,” Brown said holding his hands apart the height of a basketball, “and we’ve got to find a way to (close it) somehow. I think we took steps in the right direction to do that.”

Redan, which improved to 30-0 with Monday’s win, coasted to the Region 6-4A title this season and beat Walnut Grove 97-38 in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament this past weekend. Northwest, Region 7-4A’s No. 2 seed, was an obvious underdog against the Lady Raiders.

But for a few minutes, those underdogs seemed to have that aforementioned gap completely erased.

Macy Weeks drove for a layup and a 2-0 lead, Mallory Souther’s 3-pointer put Northwest up 5-0 and Kerrigan King’s layup made it 7-2 with 3:58 left in the opening quarter. And while Redan scored the next 10 points to end the period, Northwest stuck with the Lady Raiders for much of the second quarter.

Halle Ford’s assist to Peyton Maret cut the deficit to 16-14 some five minutes before halftime, but Redan finished the half with an 11-1 run and took a 27-15 lead into the locker room.

“I don’t know if we could’ve played harder and more physical than we did in the first half,” Brown said. “Had we made more shots in the first half, then we’re talking about a single-digit (deficit) at halftime.”

Redan broke the game open with the first 10 points of the third quarter — Jaylen Black’s 3-pointer put the Lady Raiders ahead 37-15 — and led 49-25 entering the final period. The Lady Raiders forced 24 turnovers and made 6 of 20 3-pointers.

“We knew they were a third quarter team,” Brown said. “They came out and made a few shots to start the second half and from there it’s tough to stop the bleeding.”

Redan has won all but one game this season by double digits and has wins of 77-2, 73-9, 105-19, 82-4, 62-12, 64-16 and 82-20, according to Brea Elmore led with 18 points for Redan, while Jada Byrd added 17.

The Lady Bruins finished 3 of 19 from 3-point range.

“We knew they could shoot the 3 well and came out to stop that,” Redan coach Jerry Jackson said. “If anything would beat us, we wouldn’t let the 3 beat us tonight.”

Souther led Northwest with 10 points, while Weeks had eight points and 11 rebounds. Both are seniors and starters, along with Ford and King.

“I’m really proud of us,” Ford said. “I feel we accomplished a lot.”

Ashlee Huynh rounds out the Lady Bruins’ senior class that helped the team finish runner-up in Region 7 two straight seasons and advance in the state tournament for the first time since 2010, when Northwest reached the Class 4A title game.

“With those seniors working as hard as they did all year long without me having to beg and plead, they’re the ones who got us going back in the right direction,” Brown said. “Now our young ones have seen the example and know how to lead from these seniors. If we get that kind of leadership next year, we’ll be fine.”

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