Given the option, Northwood Academy girls basketball coach Presley Singleton would not want to play a team four times in one season.
That’s exactly what Singleton’s team got in the quarterfinal round of the SCISA AAA state tournament as her Chargers took on fellow Region 2-AAA member Porter-Gaud on Tuesday night.
Northwood beat Porter-Gaud three times during the 2014-15 regular season and Singleton knew going into Tuesday’s game that her team would get Porter-Gaud’s best shot. Indeed they did.
Northwood, one of the favorites to win the SCISA AAA state title this season, escaped a major upset bid by an inspired Cyclones squad, winning, 50-49.
“Wow, I really have to give Porter-Gaud credit because they played so well, so hard,” said Singleton. “I fully expected this type of game. I knew they were a good team and I knew they would come after us. To our kids’ credit, we played really hard also. We didn’t play great but we gave an outstanding effort. It was a great game.”
With a three point lead and seven seconds remaining, Northwood (24-6) was called for a technical foul on an inbounds pass, giving Porter-Gaud two free throws and the ball. Porter-Gaud’s Bailey Allen hit both free throws to cut the margin to one.
With time running out, Allen lobbed a pass towards the basket for forward Garis Grant, who managed to get off a shot at point blank range for the win. The shot failed to drop and the Chargers advanced to Friday’s semifinal game.
Junior point guard Katelyn Powell scored 12 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Chargers rally from a five-point deficit. Powell scored eight straight points during one stretch of the final period and converted four free throws in the final 25 seconds to keep her team in the lead.
Allen, Grant and Beau Faith each scored 10 points for the Cyclones.
Northwood and First Baptist continued on a collision course for the SCISA AAA state finals.
First Baptist advanced to Friday night’s semifinals against Hammond School with a 53-33 win over Pinewood Prep.
First Baptist (17-9) entered the state tournament on a four-game losing streak, which included a loss to Pinewood Prep on February 10. The Hurricanes had 11 days to regroup and played sharp and crisp on Tuesday.
After falling behind 3-0, First Baptist reeled off 15 straight points and were not challenged the rest of the way. The Hurricanes connected on eight 3-pointers in the win.
“We used the time off to rest some and just fix a few things, little things,” said First Baptist coach Graham Haley. “We slumped there late in the season but we were confident coming into the playoffs. I’m very pleased with how we played today. We shot the ball well but we won this game on the defensive end.”
Guard Jonai Grant led First Baptist in scoring with 16 points. Ashley Planter and Emily Peters each added 12 points. First Baptist’s leading scorer, forward McKala Rhodes, was limited to seven points.