North girls reach second round of basketball playoffs

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, February 23, 2022

By David Shaw

SPENCER — North Rowan’s girls basketball team aced its first post-season exam on Tuesday.

The Cavs scored a must-be-a-misprint 43 unanswered points in the first half and cruised past visiting Hayesville, 59-14, to open the 1A state playoffs.

“The chemistry was on during (Monday) night’s practice and again during the shoot-around,” winning coach Anthia Smith said, shortly after North secured a second-round match against Robbinsville on Thursday. “These girls clearly aren’t done yet. They still want to go. They still want to compete.”

North (19-8), the No. 4 seed, spotted Hayesville a 3-0 lead in the first two minutes. Then it checked its mirrors, made a lane change and raced to a 43-3 halftime lead.

“It was mostly our aggressiveness and quickness,” said North senior Hannah Wilkerson. “A lot of it starts with our defense. We were able to jump a lot of passes tonight.”

That seemed to frustrate the 29th-seeded Yellow Jackets, who finished with only five field goals. Aided by a running clock the entire second half, North led by as many as 48 points on two occasions in the waning moments.

“We were swinging the ball around really well,” said North sophomore Bailee Goodlett. “And making that one extra pass we needed.”

Both Goodlett and Wilkerson played instrumental roles. Goodlett contributed 17 points, three assists and two steals. Wilkerson, a three-time all-county selection, filled the boxscore 23 points, four steals and three assists. Sophomore Brittany Ellis (13 points) gave the Cavs three double-digit scorers.

“These players have another level that we haven’t showcased yet,” said Smith. “Hannah was hitting 3-point shots during the Catawba tournament. I’d like to get her going again. We know Brittany can knock down big-time shots. When they’re both on, that’s a new level we haven’t seen. We’ve just got to put all the pieces together.”

It was Goodlett who rolled down the windows and turned up the music. She scored nine of her points in the first stanza, including back-to-back layups off Hayesville turnovers. Then she opened the second quarter with a breakaway layup and made the ensuing free throw for a 21-3 North advantage.  Wilkerson scored 13 points in the second period, which turned into a layup drill. With the clock ticking furiously throughout the second half, North played cautiously and smart while padding it lead.

“Last night we practiced getting our hands in the passing lanes,” Smith said. “We needed to be more active, with one player helping the next.”

For their next trick, the Cavs will try to make 13th-seeded Robinnsville disappear. The Black Knights (18-6) advanced with a 60-17 first-round win over Thomas Jefferson. They’ll visit Spencer with victories in six of their last seven games.

“This game gave us the confidence we’ll need throughout the playoffs,” Wilkerson said with a warm, post-game smile. “We’ll use this energy and try to start Thursday’s game with the same momentum.”

“This was a good tune-up,” added Goodlett. “We know its only going to get harder down the road.”

NOTES: North finished with 24 rebounds, including six by freshman Krisstyle Stockton. … Wilkerson is now the fourth-leading scorer in North program history with 1,546 career points. She trails 2000 graduate Meghan Honeycutt by nine points.

Hayesville           3     0     5     6 — 14

North Rowan   18   25    8     8 — 59

HAYESVILLE (14) — Payne 5, Graves 3, Abrams 3, Roberts 2, Leatherwood 1

NORTH ROWAN (59) — Wilkerson 23, Ba. Goodlett 17, Ellis 13, Stockton 2, Stoner 2, Elder 2, Bl. Goodlett