02/23/12 — Northern Nash-Aycock girls

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Northern Nash-Aycock girls

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 23, 2012 1:48 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Charles B. Aycock's lack of a true point guard finally became too much to overcome.

Northern Nash's relentless ball pressure and trapping defense forced 34 turnovers and the Knights rolled to a 49-22 win on Wednesday night in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A girls' basketball playoffs.

Northern Nash scored the first 11 points of the game and the Golden Falcons turned the ball over seven times before scoring their first point. Aycock closed to within 13-9 by the end of the first quarter.

Imari Howell's 3-pointer midway through the second quarter trimmed the deficit to 17-14. Alexus Hill's layup and Jessica Lyons' three-point play extended the Knights' advantage to 24-17 at the half.

The Golden Falcons (17-7 overall) struggled with Northern's tenacious defensive pressure and turned the ball over 10 times in the third quarter. The absence of senior point guard Courtnei Gilbert, who was lost midway through the season, was glaring as the margin grew to 32-20 entering the fourth quarter.

"They played great defense," Aycock head coach Laura Romo said. "They were in your face with aggressive man-to-man and an aggressive press. We were hurt missing (Gilbert) who we lost halfway through the season and that hurt us because we didn't handle the ball.

"If you can't handle the ball, you can't play."

The Golden Falcons scored just five points in the second half and finished the game with only five field goals. The Knights (21-3) melted precious seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter and Northern Nash began the final eight minutes on a 12-0 run.

Aycock failed to place a scorer in double figures and Howell scored a team-high nine points to go with 11 rebounds in her final prep game. Kayla Newsome added five points.

Jasmine Griffin scored 16 points for the Knights.

The Golden Falcons won seven of their final nine games, won their second consecutive regular-season Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference championship, captured the ECC tournament title this season and earlier this week won their first playoff game in Romo's three-year tenure on the sidelines.

"I feel like we're building," Romo said. "When I got here the girls had won four games. We've won the conference championship two years in a row and now we've won the conference tournament and a first-round playoff game.

"These seniors have set up a foundation to keep building on and for that I'm happy."