One year after suffering through a heartbreaking overtime loss in the SCISA AAA state championship game, the Northwood Academy girls basketball team finished the job on Saturday night.
Northwood captured its first state title since the 2002-03 season, ending a frustrating four-year run in the state tournament with a 61-58 win over Hammond School at the Sumter Civic Center.
Senior forward Ericka Martin and sophomore guard Jailah Melvin led four players in double figures with 14 points each as the Chargers improved to 26-6 on the season.
Senior wing Dee Heath added 11 points while junior point guard Katelyn Powell scored 10 for the Chargers.
“There’s no better feeling in the world than what we’re feeling right now,” said fifth-year coach Presley Singleton. “This group has worked so hard and been through so much this season. We played several games with six players due to injuries and the flu, but this group really put it all together at the end of the season.
“We really played as a team tonight. We had four in double figures and another with nine points. To me, that was the difference in the game. Our girls really stuck together.”
Northwood was playing in the finals for the fifth time in six years having not won a title.
Martin scored nine points in the opening quarter and Northwood used an 11-0 run at the end of the first quarter to take a 17-6 lead. The lead was 32-17 by halftime.
“Ericka really took charge of the game early and carried us,” said Singleton. “I told her at our shootaround this morning that this was her last high school game and we needed her to carry us. She was dominant in that first quarter.”
Led by junior guard Amelia Green’s five second-half 3-pointers, Hammond was able to trim the margin to 48-39 after three quarters and continued to cut into the advantage in the fourth quarter.
Green again led a late charge to bring Hammond within four at 56-52 with 1:54 remaining in the game, but Northwood Academy hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win. The Chargers converted 21 of 30 free throw attempts.
Green finished with a game-high 20 points, connecting on six 3-pointers.
Point guard Ahlea Myers added 15 and forward Morgan Walker scored 11 for Hammond (21-7).
“We didn’t play that bad in the second half, but Green just caught fire and brought them back,” said Singleton. “We never lost our composure though and we never lost the lead. I’m really proud of the way we handled the game late.”