WHITE, Ga. - Some things just become second nature for basketball players as they mature, and with those rare seniors who have started most of their careers, coaches need to say very little to get the point across.
So with Northwest Whitfield trailing by three points in the final 30 seconds of the Region 7-AAAA semifinal Tuesday against Gilmer County, Halle Ford wasn't worried when the called play fell through. The senior guard just found a way to get open behind the 3-point line and pulled the trigger.
That got the Lady Bruins to overtime, where they dominated on their way to a 53-40 win and a berth in tonight's championship game against River Ridge.
"It was simple there: Get the ball into our big-time player's hands," Northwest Whitfield coach Greg Brown said of Ford's big shot. "It didn't exactly go as planned, but she knows in that situation we want the ball in her hands. I knew when it left her hand it was going in, no doubt in my mind."
Ford was supposed to get the ball off a screen but the Lady Bobcats sniffed it out, so she had to go through the middle of the lane and got the ball two steps behind the arc before cutting loose.
"The play we ran was set for me to get a shot, but it didn't work, so I just went to the top of the key, got it and shot it," Ford said calmly. "Once we got into overtime and got that quick layup, we all felt we were going to win."
Once in the extra session Northwest took control right off the opening tip, which ended in a Ford layup. The Lady Bruins (23-3), out-rebounded to that point, did not allow an offensive rebound in overtime and meanwhile made eight of nine free throws. The defense smothered the Gilmer guards and forced four overtime turnovers.
"That was as tight as it could get -- and, sure, I would have loved to have won by 20 -- but I think it's good for this team to have to win one like that," Brown said. "Our defense in overtime was amazing: They didn't sniff a basket in overtime, and we got every rebound."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.