Friday, March 4, 2016

Northpoint girls advance to state basketball title game

Image and article from Commercial Appeal

The faster the pace of the game, the better Ashtyn Baker likes it. And she and her Northpoint teammates were thriving Thursday.

The Trojans advanced to their second Division 2-A state championship game in three years, withstanding a 3-point shooting barrage from Franklin Road Academy to win, 57-50, at Lipscomb University's Allen Arena.

In Saturday's 1 p.m. final, the Trojans will face Knoxville Webb, which has won the last two state championships and beat the Trojans in the 2014 final. The Spartans ousted Ezell-Harding 48-39 in the other semifinal.

"I love to run and I have teammates that love to run," said Baker, a Miss Basketball finalist. "I love a fast-paced game."

Baker finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists and shouldered most of the ball-handling load for the Trojans, who kept their poise against a Panthers team that ran at every opportunity while hoisting 20 3-point attempts.

Even more impressive was the fact that they did it with all five starters going the full 32 minutes.

"That wasn't by design," said Trojans coach Barry Gray. "We really only go six-deep and we had our senior, Lindsay Bramlitt, ready to go. But Hannah (Shafer) stayed out of foul trouble and we rolled (the dice) with Jade (Wells) after she picked up her fourth foul."

Gray said his players frequently practice against boys from the school's junior varsity, which helps keep their conditioning high.

"We've been prepared to play at this level," said Lindsey Whiteside, who added 14 points and eight rebounds.

Northpoint led 50-48 with about a minute to go when Baker came up with a clutch basket inside that gave her team a four-point cushion. FRA made a pair of free throws before Baker and Whiteside combined to go 5 of 6 from the line in the final seconds to wrap it up.

Wells finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds; Lauren Gross chipped in with nine points. Riley Casey had 17 to lead FRA, which shot just 38 percent for the game (7 of 20 from beyond the arc) and was out-rebounded 35-27.

"It was a fun game to watch but not a fun game to coach," said Gray. "It was two really good teams that played hard and I think there were times in the game when each team forced its will on the other.

"It was one of those games where you hate to see one team lose."

There's still one more game to go though as Northpoint bids to win its first state championship. This year marks the Trojans' fourth straight trip to the final four and while, admittedly, in the past they've just been happy to make it, the goal is a lot higher this time.

"We're not on a cruise ship," said Baker. "We're on a battleship."


Franklin Road Aca. (50) - Riley Casey 17, Taylor Casey 9, Jessica Heldman 9, Alison McKinney 3, Lily Pierce 5, Catera Sawyers 7.
Northpoint (57) - Ashtyn Baker 19, Lauren Gross 9, Hannah Shafer 3, Jade Wells 12, Lindsey Whiteside 14.
Franklin Rd. Aca. 18 7 14 11-50
Northpoint 16 7 16 18-57

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