The top-seeded Lady Greyhounds survived a scrappy Surry Central to advance to the girls final of the Northwest Conference Tournament.
Points came at a premium as the final score was just 33-31. In fact, for the first one-third of the game, North Surry had just four points.
The Lady Eagles led 5-2 at the start, then North cut the lead to one on a basket by Erin March.
Courtney Hegler nailed a three and a three-point play for six quick points as the Eagles led 11-4 at the end of the first quarter.
Neither team scored for the first 2:26 of the second. Then North got a free throw and a long two-point jumper to claw closer at 11-7.
Sarah Bruce and Hegler scored to bump the Eagle lead up to 15-7. The eight-point lead was the largest for either team on the night.
March completed a three-point play, and Jordan Badgett made two free throws as North Surry cut the deficit to 19-15 before the half.
Central’s Cassidy Joyner threw up a 60-footer just after the buzzer that went in. While the shot excited the visiting crowd, the basket was waved off by officials.
The Hounds struck quickly in the second half. March and Malaya Johnson scored baskets in the first minute to tie the game. Then Johnson scored again a minute later for North’s first lead of the game at 21-19.
Surry Central called a timeout at 5:24, but both teams struggled on offense with just one basket over the next five minutes. That score was from Bruce to tie the game at 21-all.
In the final 47 seconds of the third, North’s Kristina Rumplasch made two free throws and a baseline drive to give the Hounds a 25-21 lead in the closing seconds of the third.
Bruce scored again at the buzzer to make it 25-23.
In the fourth quarter, Rumplasch and Joyner came up big for their respective teams.
Joyner swished two free throws to tie the game, then after an Eagle steal, she converted a three-point play 19 seconds later.
That gave Central a 28-25 lead with 5:01 to play.
Badgett scored to cut the lead to one.
Central made a turnover, but Joyner stole the ball back, which led to a foul with 4:01 left. Kristin Key hit one of two for a 29-27 lead.
North Surry couldn’t score on its next possession, and Surry Central had the ball with three minutes left, trying to run some clock.
After burning a few seconds, Joyner tried a three from the left wing that missed.
North Surry took the rebound and moved up the floor.
Rumplasch drew a foul with 1:56 left. She hit both shots to tie the game.
North got the ball back, and Rumplasch again drew a foul with 1:31 remaining. She hit one shot to take the lead, then committed a lane violation on the second when she realized she would come up short on the attempt.
Joyner scored again to give Central a 31-29 lead with about a minute left.
Rumplasch caught a pass on the right wing, pump-faked a three and drove into the lane for a score and foul with 53.7 seconds left. Before she could shoot the foul shot, Coach Shane Slate called a timeout to talk to his team.
After the timeout, Rumplasch missed the free throw, but North still led 32-31. That was the first of four straight misses from the line for the Hounds.
With 14 seconds left, Joyner tried a shot in the lane, but Johnson blocked it. Badgett got the ball and was fouled with 10.1 seconds left.
She missed both shots, but the second one bounced long over the head of Bruce and right to March. The forward went right up with a shot and was fouled with 7.5 seconds left.
March missed the first, but made the second for a 33-31 lead.
Joyner brought the ball up the floor and passed to Dockery on the right wing. Dockery was well guarded and took a tough shot that missed at the buzzer.
Joyner and Rumplasch led their teams with 12 points each. Rumplasch had nine of her 12 in the second half.
Malaya picked up her fourth foul, so she had to be more careful, noted North Coach Shane Slate. That put more responsibility on Kristina’s shoulders. Rather than settle for jump shots, she attacked the basket, he noted.
Joyner had seven of her 12 in the fourth quarter. She also made three steals for the Eagles, who had 15 as a team.
Central Coach Mandy Holt said Dockery played “awesome defense” on the Hounds’ guards. Dockery had three steals, two blocks, five deflections and created some jump balls with tie-ups.
Brittany Lewis, Brooke Lewis, Key and Hegler all had two steals each. Hegler and Marlee Wilmoth had five rebounds, and Brittany Lewis had two boards and two blocks.
For North, Johnson led the team with 13 rebounds and four blocks.
“Just another battle,” summed up Slate. “We’ve had several of those types of games this season. Fortunately we made a few plays to get ahead.”
Slate said he told his girls that this is the Hounds’ ninth-straight trip to the conference final, which goes back even before the current conference alignment.
North Surry will host second-seeded Bishop McGuinness Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Holt said she is proud of her team’s play this week and is looking forward to getting a spot in the 2A state playoffs.
The Eagles might get one more crack at the Greyhounds, she added.