BY BRIAN HAMILTON
STRAWBERRY PLAINS – Northview Academy wrapped up the semifinal round of the Class 3A District 3 tournament in the same fashion as it did in 2022, defeating Gibbs convincingly to earn a championship game berth against Seymour. None of the semifinal games went much different than a year ago, but there is one thing Northview head coach Brooke Shelley would like to see go different this year, and that is the result of the championship game.
The Lady Cougars earned a chance to right that with a 65-34 drubbing of Gibbs on Thursday night and will look to break a six-game losing streak to Seymour on Monday night.
“We’ve just got to relax,” Shelley said regarding Monday’s game against the Lady Eagles. “Defensively, against Seymour, we’ve done a good job. We’ve held them right at 40 points both times we’ve played (this year), but their defensive pressure has bothered us on the offensive end. We’ve got to have better composure and keep them off the glass. They just completely dominated us on the boards at home. There’s some things that we can clean up and I hope that it’s a battle and I hope that it’s a battle that we win on Monday, but we’ve just got to come out and we’ve got to be the better team on Monday night.”
Northview Academy’s Josie Horner kicked off the scoring with a layup, followed by a Reagan Brown three, giving the Lady Cougars a 5-0 lead. Brown then grabbed a steal at midcourt and pushed it ahead to Jordan White, who converted a layup. Before Gibbs could blink, the Lady Eagles were down 7-0 just minutes into the game.
Another three by Brown pushed the Northview lead to 10-2, but Gibbs would call a timeout to regroup and finish the opening quarter strong.
Raley Graves hit a three on Gibbs’ next possession to trim the deficit to 10-5, but baskets by Camryn Brown and Kaylee Smith stretched the Lady Cougars’ lead to 14-5.
Gibbs would end the first quarter on a 7-0 run, however, as Maddi Whaley nailed a three with just over a minute remaining in the period and neither team would score again, as Northview went to the second quarter clinging to a 14-12 lead.
Northview opened the second quarter with two consecutive baskets to make the score 18-12 early in the second quarter before a Gibbs three cut the Lady Cougars’ lead to 18-15 with 5:21 left in the half. From that point on, Northview would go on a tear, outscoring the Lady Eagles 22-8 in the quarter.
Two baskets by Horner extended the lead to 22-15. Camryn Brown then made a steal and missed the layup, but Savannah Bates was there to clean up the miss and score, giving Northview a 24-15 lead with 3:22 to go.
Consecutive threes by Reagan Brown and Savannah Bates would stretch the Northview lead to 30-15, as the Lady Cougars doubled up Gibbs with a 12-0 spurt.
Brianna Bates hit a three to end the Lady Eagles’ drought, but Northview would go on a 7-0 run to make the score 33-18 with under one minute remaining in the half.
Whaley sank two free throws with 10 seconds left until halftime, but Kortlynn Brown came down and nailed a three with four seconds left to send the Lady Cougars to halftime with a 36-20 lead.
Northview opened the third quarter with a three-pointer, followed by a long two by Bates and a three by Reagan Brown, giving the Lady Cougars a 44-20 lead early in the period.
Jordan White then scored on a layup, followed by another basket by Reagan Brown, as Northview opened the second half on a 12-0 run, which continued a 15-0 run, dating back to the first half, and giving the Lady Cougars a 48-20 advantage.
Gibbs finally stopped the bleeding when Raley Qualls hit 1-of-2 from the line, making the score 48-24. The Lady Eagles did not make a field goal until there was under one minute left in the third quarter, when Dakota Large hit a three to make the score 48-24.
“At halftime, I challenged them and said, ‘Look, they’re shooting 67-percent from the field and that’s because of our defense. We’re not doing what we need to do defensively,'” Shelley said after the game. “I said, ‘We’ve got to take these 16 minutes and we need some momentum going into Monday.’ I told them at halftime that I felt like we were up (only) four. It felt like it was a really, really close game, but I think it was 16 still, but we just weren’t doing what we needed to do on the defensive end, but we came out in the second half and did a better job of that.”
Regan Brown hit a free-throw line jumper, which bounced around the rim a couple times, at the buzzer to send Northview to the final stanza leading 50-24.
Sophomore reserve Kaylin Milam hit a three early in the fourth quarter to give Northview a 55-24 lead, followed by a basket by White, which put the Lady Cougars ahead 57-24.
A long two-point shot by freshman Olivia Lykes extended the lead to 59-24 and capped an 11-0 Northview run.
Whaley connected on a three with 32 seconds remaining in the contest, cutting the Gibbs deficit to 65-32, followed by two Dakota Large free throws with three seconds on the clock, as the Lady Cougars came away with a 65-34 win.
Reagan Brown led all scorers with 23 points, including 5-of-7 from three, while Josie Horner finished with nine points.
Maddi Whaley led Gibbs (8-20) with 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting and 3-of-5 from beyond the arch, while Dakota Large finished with nine and Brianna Bates added eight.
The win advances Northview Academy (20-9)to the finals to face county rival Seymour (22-9) for the third time this season. The Lady Cougars have dropped six straight to the Lady Eagles, dating back to the 2021-22 season, with the last being a 42-39 setback at home on Feb. 3.
“There’s a reason that your front windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror and that’s the thing we kind of try and talk about,” said Shelley. “In the postseason, our goal is to come out and win the day. We talk about, ‘Hey, we’ve got to win this practice. Yeah, we’re just competing against ourselves, but we’ve got to win practice today, and then when we show up for the game, we’ve got to win tomorrow.’ We’ve got to take it one day at a time, one game at a time, and I think again, we’ve just got to relax and go out there and be us and just play our game.”
Northview will get its chance to win the day on Monday, in a highly anticipated rematch in this rivalry between two teams that are practically only separated by about 10 miles on Boyd’s Creek Highway.