Mustangs Roar Back In Tourney
The North Moore Mustang girls continued a journey into uncharted territory with a dramatic come-from-behind 55-49 win over the East Montgomery Eagles in the first round of the Yadkin Valley Conference Tournament held in Robbins Monday.
"We can't even remember the last time North Moore won like this in the conference," head coach Sammy McNeill said. "The team is pretty excited."
The Mustangs finished the regular season with a 7-5 conference mark and the third seed in the tournament. The victory advanced North Moore to the second round and improved their season's record to 16-9 -- a far cry from last year's single conference win and 1-23 finish.
East Mont-gomery, seeded sixth in the tourney after finishing conference play with a 4-8 record, gave the Mustangs a tough game for the third time this season. "They have a good team and they match up well with us," McNeill said of the Eagles, who exited the tournament with 10-11 overall record.
The game started with East Montgomery scoring first on a pair of free throws by Briana Turner. North Moore countered with a Megan McNeill free throw and a Brittany Harper basket for a 3-2 lead just 24 seconds into the game. Jasmine Covington added a nothing-but-net trey to put the Mustangs up 6-2 just over a minute into the contest.
The Eagles roared back with a 5-0 run to take a 7-6 lead with over five minutes left in the first period.
Covington nailed a deuce midway through the quarter that ignited a 9-0 North Moore run. Allison Braswell scored on a putback and an old fashioned three-point play. The run ended with Miranda Love's fastbreak layup off a feed from Braswell that gave the Mustangs a 15-7 edge.
East Montgomery mounted another string of five unanswered points that cut the North Moore lead to 15-11 with 1:12 left. The Mustangs' Ashley Powers traded baskets with Toi Collins of the Eagles to finish out the first stanza with North Moore up 17-13.
The second quarter was like a completely different game. East Montgomery tied the score twice in less than four minutes and surged to a 24-21 lead with less than a minute left in the half. Two free throws from Braswell and a pair of buckets by Love were all the offense North Moore could manage.
Love's second field goal came with just three seconds left in the first half. It pulled the Mustangs to within one, 24-23, at the break.
North Moore trailed 26-23 two minutes into the second half when Braswell and Logan Monroe sparked a 12-2 run for a 35-28 lead with over two minutes left in the third quarter.
East Montgomery then staged a 7-2 run of its own to end the period trailing only 37-34. This set the stage for the final period fireworks.
Braswell and Covington started off the fourth quarter with field goals that extended the Mustang lead back to seven points, 41-34.
But the Eagles refused to buckle. Turner sandwiched a Collins deuce with a pair of treys to retake the lead 42-41 with 4:45 left in the game.
Neither team managed a score for more than a minute. Then Love hit from the floor and McNeill nailed a pair of free throws 16 seconds later to put North Moore back on top 45-42 with 3:24 left.
Sabrena Conrad scored seconds later, cutting the Mustang lead to a single point at 45-44, with exactly three minutes left.
Coach McNeill called a crucial time out with 2:24 to go in order to set end of the game strategy.
"They were pressing us and they were putting a lot of pressure out front," he said. "We kept telling our big people, Harper, McNeill and Monroe, to keep working at the baseline and you'll get some open looks. They listened and it worked out for us."
Immediately thereafter Harper scored down low off a feed from McNeill. Seconds later Harper again scored in the paint to extend the Mustang lead to 49-44 with 1:35 left in the game.
Then, with 1:21 left, McNeill fouled out in what could have been a crucial turn of events in the game. But East Montgomery missed the free throws.
"She (McNeill) and Harper had four (fouls) when the quarter started," coach McNeill said. "We told them both to stay as long as they could."
It turned out to be long enough. After an East Montgomery bucket pulled the Eagles within three, Harper netted a third straight bucket down low to make the score 51-46 with 43 seconds left.
Turner hit her third three-pointer of the period to close it up at 51-49. McNeill called another time out after that basket to make sure his team knew what they had to do in the closing seconds.
The Eagles were forced to foul to get the ball back. Braswell calmly nailed four straight pressure-packed free throws down the stretch, the last with 9.4 seconds left in the game, to ice the big win.
Braswell was a perfect seven for seven at the charity stripe on her way to a team-high 17 points for the Mustangs. Turner led East Montgomery with a game-high 18 points.
Love and Harper each scored 12 for North Moore and Covington hit three clutch outside shots, including North Moore's only three-pointer. The Eagles' Collins was the only other player in double figures for the game.
North Moore will play the winner of a Monday night first-round match between second-seed Thomasville and seventh-seed West Montgomery. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday night. The winner of that contest will advance to the conference championship game.
East Montgomery 13 11 10 15 -- 49
North Moore 17 6 14 18 -- 55
East Montgomery -- Loza 2 0-0 4, Conrad 4 1-4 9, Barber 0 2-7 2, Dunkiss 2 1-2 5, Turner 6 3-6 18, Collins 4 2-3 10, Reynolds 0 0-0 0, Hamrick 0 1-2 1. Totals -- 18 10-24 49.
North Moore -- McNeil 0 3-6 3, Monroe 1 0-1 2, Harper 6 0-0 12, Braswell 5 7-7 17, Covington 3 0-0 7, Love 6 0-1 12, Chandler 0 0-0 0, Powers 1 0-0 2, Walters DNP. Totals -- 22 10-15 55.
Three-point goals: East Montgomery 3 (Turner 3); North Moore 1 (Covington).
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