February 21, 2013

State basketball: Lady War Eagles fly by Northwest girls

TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield High School’s girls basketball team used a defense specifically tailored to slow down Marist’s quickness.

The Lady War Eagles were still too fast.

The Lady Bruins’ season ended with a 59-34 loss to the Atlanta private school Wednesday night in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.

Region 7 runner-up Northwest (19-9) used a sagging man-to-man defense, attempting to keep their opponents’ perimeter players from driving into the lane. Marist’s Kelsey Carrier scored 10 points — all from either penetrating for layups or shooting mid-range jumpers — and was one example of how the Lady War Eagles (20-8) were too quick even for a schemed defense.

Marist — Region 6’s No. 3 seed — only made four 3-pointers and shot 22-for-46 overall.

“They have some good athletes on the wing,” Lady Bruins coach Greg Brown said. “Our goal was to try and keep them out of the paint. Sometimes that is easier said than done when you’re out-athleted. I have just seen them on two films. I hadn’t seen them in person. They were more athletic in person than they were on film.”

After Northwest took an early 4-2 edge, Marist went on a 16-4 run to finish the first quarter and led 32-17 at halftime. The Lady Bruins’ Autumn Blackwell made a 3-pointer to start the second half, but the Lady War Eagles scored seven consecutive points and led 47-25 heading into the final period.

“We just did a good job of reversing the basketball,” Marist coach Kim Hixon said. “We got a little bit of speed on them.”

Briana Bell had 21 points to lead all scorers and pace the Lady War Eagles, whose pressure forced 21 Northwest turnovers. The Lady Bruins — who were led by Kaitlin Wade’s 12 points — forced nine turnovers.

“They put a ton of pressure on the ball. I felt that really took us out of what we wanted to do,” Brown said. “I think the difference overall is that they were just physically stronger than us. ... They’re probably in the top region in the state at 4A. If you want to compete at that level, then you’ve got to be physically tough.”

The loss came in the Lady Bruins’ first state tournament appearance since 2010, when they reached the Class 4A title game. Brown noted his team’s midseason turnaround during a tight sub-region race as a highlight of the season.

“A month ago, we lose to Dalton by 20 here and we lose at Southeast (Whitfield) at the buzzer,” Brown said. “I don’t know where we’re going at that point. Then we reel off eight in a row before losing in the region final and here. ... It could’ve went dead the other way real quick, but the kids didn’t let that happen.”

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