In a likely preview of the SCISA AAA girls basketball finals later this month, top-ranked Heathwood Hall edged second-ranked Northwood Academy, 80-77, in a non-conference regular season showdown on Saturday afternoon.
The game also featured two of the state's top senior players - Heathwood Hall center A'ja Wilson and Northwood guard Amber Campbell - and the duo did not disappoint.
Wilson, rated the nation's top overall prospect by ESPN, scored 44 points and Campbell, headed to Wake Forest, answered with 44 points of her own.
"I thought my team played hard," said Northwood coach Presley Singleton. "I could not be more pleased with their fight. We battled all game long and we gave ourselves a chance to win. We tried to impose our will and make them run the floor but we did a poor job rebounding and if we don't rebound, we can't run. When we could play at our pace, I thought we had a big advantage."
Wilson, who is choosing between South Carolina, North Carolina, UConn and Tennessee as her college, scored 14 points in the opening quarter and Heathwood Hall grabbed a 24-13 lead heading into the second. The lead ballooned to 14 at 35-21 early in the second quarter before Campbell took control.
The 5-9 guard scored 17 points in the second period and Northwood closed on a 21-10 run to pull within 45-42 at the break. Wilson finished the half with 28 points while Campbell had 26.
Sophomore Katelyn Powell, who finished with 14 points, gave Northwood its first lead at 51-49 with 4:40 remaining in the third. The Chargers opened up a six-point advantage in the quarter before leading, 61-58, heading into the fourth.
Wilson hit consecutive buckets early in the fourth to put Heathwood back up, 64-61, but Campbell's fourth 3-pointer with 5:10 remaining gave Northwood the 67-66 lead. Heathwood, however, used a 10-4 run to lead, 77-71, with 30 seconds left in the game.
Powell and Campbell each hit late 3's, but Heathwood Hall made three free throws in the final 15 seconds to seal the win.
"It was a great basketball game," said Singleton.
"It was an extremely high level of basketball. It was two very good teams going at each other with all they had. It was a good game for us to play. We have tried to really strengthen our schedule this year so that we can improve. I hate that we lost today but it was a good experience and hopefully it will help us when we see them again."
Northwood (77): Amber Campbell 44, Katelyn Powell 14, Eden Crowell 7, Erika Martin 7, Jaime Andrews 2, Antoinette Davis 2.
Heathwood Hall (80): A'ja Wilson 44, Gadson Lefft 15, Victoria Dickerson 11, Ryan Scott 5, Erin Ress 4, Chelsea Joseph 1.
Northwood 13 29 19 16-77
Heathwood Hall 24 21 13 22-80