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As the higher-seeded team, Northwood took the floor Thursday in its home whites and its score was displayed on the home side of the scoreboard. The Panthers made themselves at home under the boards, too, helping themselves to seconds on the offensive glass.
Northwood was able to get away with shooting 18 percent from the floor largely by its work on the backboards, and held off Galax 43-38 in the Region C Division 1 girls’ semifinals on the Maroon Tide’s court.
The Panthers (17-7) advanced to Saturday’s championship game with Covington, which rallied from a 14-point first-quarter deficit and took down Auburn 54-45 in overtime in the first semifinal. Both teams will move on to the state tournament this weekend. Galax’s season ends at 16-10.
Despite a decided height advantage enjoyed by Northwood, Galax more than held its own in the first half, outrebounding the Panthers 31-29. That edge disappeared after halftime though, as Northwood grabbed 25 rebounds, including 12 offensive, while Galax pulled down 15 total. And although Northwood went more than 13 minutes without a field goal, the Panthers and Maroon Tide entered the fourth quarter deadlocked at 26-all.
“We’ve been outsized all year,” Galax coach Yerrick Stoneman said. “We have the athleticism, but they had one girl right at 6-feet, another girl right at 5-11 or so, and we were in position but you can still rebound from behind. I’m not saying Northwood was over the back, they were able to rebound from behind where we didn’t keep contact.”
Peyton Williams put the Panthers in front for good when she opened the fourth with a 3-pointer from the left corner, sparking a 9-2 run. Heather Crawford sank two foul shots off of an offensive rebound at the 5:12 mark for a 35-28 Panther lead.
Galax refused to concede and battled back to make it a one-possession game when Sydney Lindsey’s steal led to a Paige Hanks 3-pointer and a 35-32 score with 2:52 still to go. But the Maroon Tide was unable to make a defensive stop without putting the Panthers on the foul line, and Northwood hit 6-of-10 free throws down the stretch, in addition to getting a big putback from tiny point guard Kelsey Puckett that widened the Panther lead back to 39-32 with 1:28 to play.
“We’ve been to the regionals every year but this year is special, because I had five seniors last year,” said Northwood coach Tammy Gillespie, whose team will make its first state appearance since winning the region in 2009. “Even though I have a couple seniors and a couple juniors, it’s like a whole new team because they’re young, as far as experience.”
Galax took an 11-10 lead after eight minutes as Sydney Lindsey and Lindsey Ayers grabbed defensive rebounds and went coast-to-coast for layups on consecutive possessions to close the opening quarter. Carolyn Vaughan knocked down a couple of deep 2-point jumpers during the first.
Tayler Broyles’ driving layup spotted Northwood a 19-13 lead at the 5-minute mark of the second quarter, but it would be the Panthers’ last field goal until Williams’ trey to open the fourth.
Galax was unable to make much headway itself, managing just three free throws the final five minutes of the first half, but surged into the lead late in the third when Susan Davis converted her steal into points, and Hanks followed with a 3-pointer for a 26-24 lead.
Williams led all scorers with 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Northwood, which finished with a 54-46 edge on the boards and outscored Galax 19-9 at the free throw line. Crawford added four points and 11 rebounds and Bailey Hess had seven points and nine boards.
Davis scored a team-high nine for Galax. Vaughan and Lindsey added eight each, and Lindsey hauled in 11 rebounds despite falling ill and missing much of the second period.
“We’re still young,” Stoneman said. “We only start one senior, Carolyn Vaughan, and we’ll miss her leadership, but we bring everybody back. For us to be successful the girls are going to have to dedicate a lot of time to the offseason. We’ve got to become better shooters because we do lose Carolyn, and she was valuable in that aspect.”
Galax...............11 6 9 12––38
Northwood......10 10 6 17––43
Davis 4 1-2 9, Ayers 2 1-2 5, Hanks 2 0-0 6, Vaughan 3 2-5 8, Lindsey 2 4-4 8, Reynolds 0 1-2 1, H.Cassell 0 1-2 1. Totals 13 10-17 38.
Puckett 1 1-4 3, Broyles 2 4-6 8, Hess 3 1-3 7, E.Cassell 1 2-2 4, Crawford 0 4-8 4, Hogen 2 0-0 5, Williams 2 7-9 12. Totals 11 19-32 43.
Three-point field goals – Galax 2-13 (Hanks 2), Northwood 2-9 (Hogen Williams). Rebounds – Galax 46 (Lindsey 11), Northwood 54 (Crawford 11). Turnovers – Galax 24, Northwood 21. Team fouls – Galax 21, Northwood 14. Fouled out – Ayers, Hanks. Technical fouls – none.