Photo: Ashville’s Molly Northam (second from left) and Lydia Northam (far right) battle Handley players for a rebound during the Lady Bulldogs’ 65-53 loss in the Class 4A subregional girls basketball playoffs on Feb. 9 at AHS. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
One too many missed opportunities late in the game and struggles at the free throw line combined to end Ashville’s season in the Class 4A subregional girls basketball playoffs on Feb. 9 at AHS.
Trailing Handley by 14 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Lady Bulldogs closed within 59-52 on a pair of Lydia Northam foul shots with 2:02 remaining. But Ashville got no closer. The Lady Bulldogs scored one point the rest of the way, and Handley regained its double-digit lead down the stretch to secure a 65-53 victory and end Ashville’s season at 22-11.
Ashville shot 45 percent (10-for-22) at the foul line, while Handley shot 64 percent (16-for-25).
“We didn’t shoot as well as we would have liked, and that’s a credit to [Handley’s] defense,” said Ashville head coach Caleb Carpenter. “They put some pressure on us that we might not have seen all year. We cut it down to single digits near the end, but we had a few turnovers and then [Handley] made their free throws and we didn’t make ours. Those were key possessions that ended up in a four-point swing. Our girls played hard and gave it all they had tonight, and sometimes it just doesn’t fall your way.”
For Ashville, Molly Northam scored 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter during the Lady Bulldogs’ failed rally attempt. She also had nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Grace Pinkard finished with 13 points. Talisha Samaniego contributed nine points and three steals, while Lydia Northam added seven points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
The Lady Tigers hit the ground running, opening the first quarter with an 8-2 run. Molly Northam’s buzzer-beating layup pulled the hosts within 18-13 after eight minutes. Handley pushed the lead to double digits midway through the second frame, but Molly Northam’s three-point basket with 40 seconds left before halftime pulled Ashville within 34-25.
The Lady Bulldogs gained little headway during the third period, however, as Handley answered every Ashville score with one of its own. The Lady Bulldogs drew within eight at one point, but two foul shots by Takeriauna Mosley near the end of the quarter provided the visitors with a 48-37 advantage heading into the final frame.
It looked as if Handley would cruise to the win after Zanautika Smith’s two free throws with five minutes left in the game put the Lady Bulldogs in a 14-point hole, but six straight baskets from Molly Northam, including a three-pointer, trimmed the deficit to 57-48 with 3:27 left.
But Ashville could not put a sustained run together over the final few minutes, and the Lady Tigers made enough foul shots late to earn a trip to the Northeast Regional Tournament.
Mosley paced Handley with 19 points, while Akia Brown and Takeira Tucker both scored 13.
Ashville’s area championship and subsequent subregional appearance were the first for the program in what is believed to be 15 years.
“That’s a credit to our girls, and especially our one senior, Molly Northam,” said Carpenter. “She’s done everything I’ve asked her to do since I took over the program. She’s special to me for buying in and helping get the other girls on board. She’s really helped get Ashville girls basketball back in the right direction of where it used to be.
“Twenty-two wins is not an easy task to complete, and I’m proud of our girls for that accomplishment. If everybody comes back and continues to work and improve on things like making free throws and getting put-backs, I can see us having another successful season.”