TUNNEL HILL, Ga. — The Northwest Whitfield boys' basketball team had lived off pressure defense and fast-break offense all season.
Matched up with Madison County's stifling 2-3 zone Friday night in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament, the Bruins' style had no answers.
The end result for Northwest was a very poor shooting night, 19 turnovers and a 61-39 loss to the Red Raiders that brought the Region 6 runner-up's season to a close with a 16-12 record.
The Red Raiders (10-18) advance to next week's second round to take on either Spalding or Woodward Academy.
Just four days after a 10-point loss to LaFayette on the same court in the region title game, the Bruins followed by forcing tough shots and turning the ball over in the paint against Madison County's zone defense. Northwest shot just 15% (2-for-13) in the first quarter and 33% (4-for-12) in the second quarter, and the Bruins were 2-for-12 (16%) from 3-point range in a first half that ended with them trailing by double digits.
"We just didn't bring the energy tonight," Northwest coach Ryan Richards said. "You can give them credit for us not scoring many points. Their 2-3 zone was really stretched out, and it did a good job to never let us get a shooter going. That made it difficult for us to get any momentum, which we never did, and then they got it rolling."
Callen Nealey and Kooper Pardee helped boost Northwest's shooting in the third quarter, but the Bruins were still outscored due to a bevy of turnovers that allowed the Red Raiders' fast-break attack to shine. That trend continued during a fourth quarter when Madison County pushed its lead to a high of 31 points.
"We were hoping to get that bad taste out of our mouth tonight, but it just wasn't meant to be," Richards said. "We really got our season going at Christmas and had a great stretch. I just hate to see it end."
Northwest girls 52, Madison County 46
Down by a point with 2:30 to play, Emma Allen and Tionna Baker helped the Lady Bruins (22-7) break off a game-ending 7-2 run to get past Madison County (15-13).
Baker finished with 20 points to lead the Region 6 champions in scoring, and Allen added 14 for the Lady Bruins, who will host McDonough or Perry next week.
Madison County's Kayla McPherson scored a game-high 23 points.
Contact John Mitchell at email@example.com.