Ardrey Kell’s girls played well during the first half against unbeaten and nationally ranked Northwest Guilford in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A quarterfinals Thursday night at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Unfortunately for the Knights, the second half didn’t go so well.
Northwest Guilford (28-0), ranked No. 11 nationally by USA Today, rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to win 56-53. Ardrey Kell had the ball with the game tied at 53 in the final 40 seconds. The Knights missed a 15-foot jump shot with 15.1 seconds left and then fouled Vikings point guard Hayley Barber (18 points). Barber made two free-throws to give her team a 55-53 lead with 12.6 seconds left.
Next, Ardrey Kell (12-1) – which got 13 points from Quiera Gilmore and 16 from Jordan Muhammad – dribbled quickly upcourt. But Barber stripped a Knights guard and was fouled again. She made one free-throw. Ardrey Kell missed a potential game-tying three-point shot at the buzzer.
“We didn’t want to hold the ball on that possession (that resulted in the shot with 15 seconds left),” Knights coach Jeff Buseick said. “We had the ball in the hands of one of our best players. We’ve been in that situation before, and she’s made a lot of good things happen.”
Buseick watched his team build a 40-28 halftime lead by speeding up Northwest Guilford with hawking ball pressure in a man-to-man defense. But after Northwest Guilford coach Melissa Joyner switched from a 1-2-2 zone to a sagging man-to-man defense in the second half, the Knights struggled to score and the game slowed down.
The Knights shot 2-for-18 in the third quarter and had six turnovers. They were 2-for-13 in the fourth quarter with two more turnovers.
It was too much to overcome.
“We had an amazing season,” Buseick said. “The girls bought in to what we were doing. I feel bad because we had (six) seniors who worked so hard, but we had an amazing run. I’m very proud of these girls.”