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Chargers making opponents 'uncomfortable' on hardwood

The Northwood Academy girls' basketball program has advanced to 13 SCISA championship games since 2003 and Chargers coach Ginnell Curtis believes the current group can make another deep postseason run.

Northwood Academy improved to 10-3 with a 77-49 victory at Ridge View on Jan. 4. The win was the fifth in six games for the Chargers.

“It’s our conditioning,” Curtis said. “They know we’re going to run. They know we’re going to weight train. They know they’re going to have to work. In the fourth quarter, we want to be outrunning people. I tell all my leaders they’re going to have to be in shape because they’re only going to get a minute or two here and there.”

Sophomore guard Alayah Birch poured in a game-high 25 points to power Northwood past Ridge View while senior center Aubrielle Harris added 19 points. Senior sharp shooter Rachel Ambroise knocked down five 3-pointers on the way to 18 points.

“I didn’t know what we were going to look like this year,” Curtis said, “but they’ve been working hard. We’re doing some good things. I’ve seen some improvement. I don’t know what teams see when they look at us on paper but we’re going to surprise some people.”

The Chargers lost three of their top four scorers from a squad that finished runner-up last winter. Birch, the leading scorer a year ago at 15.4 points per game, is out front again this year. She averages around 20 points per game while leading in rebounding and steals, too.

Harris is at 12 points per game and one of the leading rebounders. Ambroise averages high single digits and leads in steals.

Junior Ryian Howard, who plays guard and forward, contributes around six points a game. She is near the top of the stat sheet in work done around the glass, too.

Defensively, Curtis’s team has been tough to solve. Northwood has allowed more than 50 points just once and keeps opponents to 40 points per game. The Chargers get after teams the entire length of the floor.

“They have really bought into defense,” Curtis said. “We’re all about applying pressure. We don’t want to let the other team’s guards just walk it up. We want to make them uncomfortable.”

Northwood has four SCISA state titles – 2003, 2015, 2016 and 2017.