February 14, 2013

No trouble at all

Lady Bruins reach semifinals, state playoffs via big win

Northwest Whitfield High School’s girls basketball team hadn’t made it past the region tournament since losing in the 2010 Class 4A state championship game.

That streak came to an end Wednesday night as the Lady Bruins welcomed back assistant coach Carrie Brown and earned a ticket to state with a dominating 52-19 win over LaFayette in the quarterfinals of the Region 7-4A tournament at Dalton High.

Northwest (19-7) gave up just four points in the second half to advance to Friday’s semifinals, where the Lady Bruins will face Pickens at 7 p.m. The other girls semifinal will be played at 4 p.m. as River Ridge — which beat Heritage-Catoosa 74-29 in Wednesday’s other girls quarterfinal — faces Dalton. Northwest is the No. 1 seed from Sub-region 7B-4A, while River Ridge is the No. 1 seed from 7A-4A.

The semifinal winners will meet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday for the region title, while the losers play at 2:30 in the consolation game. All of the teams left in the tournament are guaranteed a spot in the Class 4A state tournament.

Lady Bruins coach Greg Brown and his wife Carrie welcomed a new addition to the family with the birth of Willow Grace, who was born this past Friday and weighed 9 pounds, 13 ounces. Carrie’s C-section delivery was planned the night after the Lady Bruins closed out the regular season with a victory, and while the Browns haven’t had much sleep, their players reacted just fine in their first game in six days.

“It has been an amazing last two weeks,” Greg said. “We planned the C-section around the region tournament, and that sounds bad, but we are a basketball family.”

Despite the hectic week, his players had little trouble with the Lady Ramblers (13-15), whom they had beaten twice earlier this season. Northwest led 12-2 at the end of the first quarter and was actually outscored 13-12 in the second quarter, but it meant little in the end. The Lady Bruins held the Lady Ramblers to just one basket in the second half, and LaFayette was scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Northwest returns to the state tournament after missing in the final season of coach Margaret Stockburger’s career and the first year under Brown.

“(Making state) is huge,” Brown said. “That is a hump we haven’t been able to get over the last few years. Getting that monkey off our back was big.”

Senior Kaitlin Wade said her classmates and the rest of the team knew exactly what was at stake against the Lady Ramblers.

“We are super excited,” said Wade, who finished with eight points. “We have taken it game by game this season, but we know that this is our senior year and our last chance to get back to state.”

Fellow senior Autumn Blackwell led all scorers with 16 points, and Halle Ford chipped in nine.

The scoring was nice, but Wade was more proud of the defense.

“Our defense was astounding tonight,” Wade said. “It is what has helped us out a lot this year. If you mess up on offense, then you can get it back on the defensive end of the floor, and that happened tonight.”

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