At first glance, a 23-6 record might lead one to think the season has been a breeze for the Northwood Academy girls basketball team. Nothing, says coach Presley Singleton, could be farther from the truth.
Northwood completed a 9-1 run through SCISA Region 2-AAA and won the league’s title with a 58-41 win over First Baptist on Friday night, avenging its only loss of the region schedule.
But, the regular season has been a difficult journey for the defending state AAA runner-ups.
“It’s been rough,” said a relieved Singleton. “We have had a lot of adversity, lot of injuries and illness that really slowed us down a good bit. We played four games with six players. We have had to really overcome a lot, a lot of things people don’t know about. I am really proud of the way our players have responded here at the end of the season.”
Northwood’s win on Friday was its seventh straight. The Chargers are healthy and peaking, says Singleton. The coach feels the injuries and sickness that her team has been through will benefit them in the long run.
“Now that we have our full roster back, I think we are a better team overall,” said Singleton. “We are deeper now and we have players who have been able to play a lot of minutes and they are much more comfortable in their roles.”
Senior forward Erika Martin scored 24 points in Friday night’s win, continuing to provide leadership on the floor and averaging a double-double for the season.
“Erika carried us tonight, especially in the first half,” Singleton said. “When she wants to score, Erika Martin can score. I don’t think there is a player in SCISA that can stop her when she makes up her mind to score.”
Junior point guard Katelyn Powell, who missed half of the regular season due to injury, has returned to the lineup and righted the ship. Powell added 13 points in the win on Friday.
First Baptist (16-9, 7-3) lost four straight games to close out the regular season. The Hurricanes held a 32-27 lead early in the third period before Northwood used a 14-6 run to take a 41-38 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Martin’s basket with five minutes left in the game pushed the Chargers to a 47-40 lead, and First Baptist would get no closer.
Senior forward McKala Rhodes paced First Baptist with 14 points while guard Jonai Grant added 11.
Both teams are headed to the SCISA AAA state tournament. Northwood, with a bye, will actually not play again until Feb. 23.
“It’s a long break and I would rather be playing next week,” said Singleton. “We will have to try some different things to keep us sharp and focused. If we can play to our potential, I feel like we have as good a chance as any to win the state championship.”
Northwood (58) — Erika Martin 24, Katelyn Powell 13, Melvin 9, Middleton 6, Heath 5, Mazyck 1.
First Baptist (41) — McKala Rhodes 14, Jonai Grant 11, Planter 8, English 2, Alvanos 5, Peters 1.