TUNNEL HILL —
Defense led to the Northwest Whitfield High School girls basketball team’s win to close the regular season.
Coach Greg Brown’s choice led to the Sub-region 7B-4A No. 1 seed.
Northwest was ahead the entire way Thursday in a 43-26 victory against Heritage-Catoosa to force a tie with Dalton atop the league standings. In the boys game, Northwest won 74-43 to finish undefeated in sub-region play and complete the senior night sweep.
After the girls game, Brown and Lady Cats coach Jeff McKinney participated in the tiebreaker, a coin flip, to determine the No. 1 seed in the sub-region. Brown predicted tails, and he was right.
“Tails never fails,” he said.
It completed a a midseason turnaround after the team started 3-2 in sub-region play, with back-to-back losses to Dalton and Southeast Whitfield. Northwest won the next five games, including a comeback win last week at Dalton and Thursday’s makeup contest with the Lady Generals.
“As a senior, I’ve been here for four years and have yet to get to the state tournament,” said Kaitlin Wade, a senior who finished with six points and three steals. “This gets us one step closer.”
Northwest (17-7, 8-2) scored the first nine points, led 10-3 after one quarter, was ahead 20-5 at halftime and held Heritage scoreless for close to 12 minutes from early in the second quarter to midway through the third.
“They missed a lot of shots, but we guarded them,” Brown said. “We guarded them tough. That’s been the thing the last five or six games. We’re holding them down on defense and limiting them to one shot for the most part.”
Heritage (18-6, 6-4) had more first-half turnovers (16) than shots taken (14). The Lady Generals finished 8-for-35 shooting for around 24 percent. The Lady Bruins went 15 of 46, close to 33 percent.
“There were numerous layups that just rolled off,” Heritage coach Edward Bryant said. “It seemed like we’d go to the bucket and get bumped, and we couldn’t get the call. It seemed like the other way they got it.”
Sarah Thomas’ putback basket with 3:30 left in the game gave Northwest a 37-17 advantage, its biggest of the night. The Lady Generals’ Jada Hubbard then scored nine consecutive points — two 3-pointers, a layup and one free throw — and forced a timeout. The Lady Bruins responded with a 6-0 game-ending run.
Autumn Blackwell had eight points and 11 rebounds for Northwest. Macy Weeks added seven points and five rebounds.
Hubbard scored 14, more than half her team’s total.
Each sub-region’s top three seeds in the Region 7-4A tournament, which starts Saturday, have byes to the quarterfinals and need just one win to earn a state tournament berth. Southeast finished tied with Heritage for the sub-region’s third seed, but the Lady Raiders won the tiebreaker because they had a better record against the sub-region No. 1 seed, the Lady Bruins.
• Northwest boys 74, Heritage 43: All of Caleb Storey’s 21 points came in the second and third quarters as he helped make the Bruins (20-3) a perfect 10-0 against sub-region foes.
Leading 18-11 entering the second quarter, Storey made three 3-pointers and tallied 14 points to give the Bruins a 38-24 halftime advantage. He made another 3-pointer and four free throws in the third quarter as he led all scorers.
“He did that Tuesday night against Ridgeland,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said. “Everybody is trying to get in Tanner Quarles’ face, and we’ll swing it to the side and (Storey) is pretty much wide open.”
Quarles added 14 points, knocking down three 3-pointers of his own. Northwest led 59-35 entering the final period, and Quarles’ last 3-pointer, with 4:50 left in the game, gave the Bruins their biggest lead at 69-37.
Richards said he tries to have Storey or Quarles on the court at all times.
“In some situations, we get both out there,” he said. “It just depends on defensive alignments and things like that.”
Tanner Bailey added 11 points for Northwest.
• Northwest JV girls 47, Heritage 33: Peyton Maret finished the night with 14 points as she paced the Lady Bruins, who outscored the visiting Lady Generals 16-7 in the fourth quarter to close their season with a victory.
Mary Kate Allen and Madelyn Logan each chipped in 10 points for Northwest (13-1).
• Coahulla Creek’s boys tied Calhoun 1-1 in a preseason scrimmage, while the girls lost 7-0 to Heritage.
Pedro Garcia scored in the 12th minute for the Colts, with an assist from Eddie Serrato. Goalkeeper Missa Fraire had 12 saves.
For the Lady Colts, Jenni Contreras and Regina Pacheco each had two shots on goal.