RONDA — Some timely defensive stops in the final seconds carried East Wilkes over Andrews 40-39 in the second round of the state 1A playoffs Thursday night. Then in Saturday’s third-round match against Winston-Salem Prep and second-half run by Prep stopped the Lady Cards in their tracks, ending their season with a 53-35 loss.
The Lady Cardinals missed the front end of two one-and-one chances in the final 76 seconds Thursday, but a steal, a tie-up and a forced travel kept the Lady Mustangs from putting up a shot to possibly win the game.
“There’s no time like the present to get a stop, I guess,” said coach Matt Campbell. “Offensively it was a grind to get anything going.” The defense was able to give the team a spark.
It was a close game throughout with neither team able to go up by more than six points.
The visitors from Cherokee County led 9-5 when sophomore Tess Jolly unleashed a trio of long jumpers as part of an 11-1 run to go up 16-10, the biggest lead of the night.
Andrews’ Jacqueline West hit a three-pointer to trim the lead to three at the end of the first, 18-15, but she would miss several more tries in the second and third quarters.
Unfortunately, the Cards couldn’t capitalize in the second period as shots kept rimming out. The home team scored just three points in the quarter as Andrew went up 25-21 at the break.
Junior center Tiffany Holloway carried the Mustangs with eight of their 10 points in the period. However, she wouldn’t get a point in the second half and finished with 10.
Chelsea Edwards sparked East Wilkes in the third quarter with seven points to retake the lead.
The Cards were trailing 30-26 with 4:40 left in the period when Alexis Pardue grabbed a rebound. As she came down, Pardue’s elbow caught Holloway in the mouth and suffered a cut.
Pardue went to the locker room to get a bandage and change uniform tops because of blood on her shirt.
Rather than struggle, the Cards got a defensive lift from guards Gracie Brown (two steals) and Lauren Johnson (one steal).
Olivia Bullard, who didn’t make much of an impact in the first half, had four points and a key block, too, as the Cards went on a 9-1 run to go up 35-31. It was 35-32 when Pardue came back in after a four-minute break.
In the first half, Andrews was breaking the full-court press by having the tall Holloway throw a diagonal pass over the defense to Morgan Mashburn.
Seeing this, Campbell moved his smallest player to the back line. Brown played like a free safety, making steals and getting deflections so that others could make steals.
It didn’t work every time — Andrews did get a couple of easy baskets off the press — but it worked often enough to be effective, the coach said.
This wasn’t a formation that the team has practiced very much, but Gracie adapted well, the coach said.
And the girls played with more energy in the third quarter, he believed.
In the first half, Andrews got offensive rebounds and beat the Cards to most of the 50/50 balls, he said. At the half he warned the girls that if they played the last 16 minutes like they played the first 16, then their season would be over.
In every game this team has lost, the difference came down to giving up second-chance points, so keeping Holloway and the others off the offensive glass was key, the coach said.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Andrews had inched ahead 39-37.
But the Card defense didn’t allow another point the rest of the way.
Pardue split a pair of free throws with 3:20 left to cut the margin to one. A minute later she would grab an offensive rebound and convert a putback to take the lead 40-39.
With 1:16 left, the Cards missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Andrews couldn’t convert.
East Wilkes tried to run some clock, but with 32 seconds left, Andrews made a steal. Edwards swiped the ball right back in transition. She couldn’t convert the front end of a one-and-one, either, but during a scramble for the loose ball, the Cards forced a tie-up with 8.1 seconds left.
Andrews had the arrow, but as the ball was being pushed up the right sideline, the Cards cut off progress and forced a travel.
Jolly led the Cards with 11 points, Pardue scored 10, Edwards nine and Bullard six.
Holloway and West scored 10 each for the Mustangs.
Saturday’s third round
East Wilkes was able to keep the advantage on its side Saturday for the first half, outscoring second-seeded Winston-Salem Prep 13-12 in the first quarter and going into half-time ahead 25-20.
But Prep came out of the half on fire, putting up 19 points in the third quarter to the Cardinals four, and outscoring East Wilkes again in the fourth, 14-6.
The Lady Cardinals ended their season with a 17-10 record.
Jeff is the associate editor of The Mount Airy News and can be followed on Twitter @SportsDudeJeff.