KING — Dead even in the Western Piedmont 2A Conference during the regular season, it was only fitting that North Surry and Surry Central would play for the league’s tournament championship game on Friday night at West Stokes.
It came right down to the wire.
Malaya Johnson scored a game-high 23 points along with 18 rebounds as the Lady Greyhounds edged the Eagles 59-47 in a game that was tied with three minutes left. Erin March finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Johnson was named conference player of the year. North coach Shane Slate was named coach of the year.
“Our last six games with them have been battles. We didn’t expect anything else,” Slate said. “Both teams played hard. We had 46 rebounds, 19 offensive, and that helped us off-set our 26 turnovers.”
Co-conference champions during the regular season, North and Central traded blows throughout a tournament title game that featured plenty of heart and hustle.
Central, which trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, fought back to put the pressure on the Greyhounds.
Cassidy Joyner swished a 3-pointer and then Tess Dockery added a free throw with 3:42 remaining in the game to tie things up at 47.
North’s Morgan Hawks, who also hit double-figures with 12 points, answered with a driving layup and Slate quickly called a timeout.
Then Johnson and March showed why they have been so tough for anyone to handle this season. Johnson scored after an offensive rebound and then March added another bucket inside. March hit a free throw and Johnson converted a three-point play with 50.7 seconds to go for a 10-point lead. North finished the game on a 12-0 run as Central didn’t score the rest of the way.
Johnson, who had 13 blocks against West Stokes in the semifinals, is not only a 1,000-point scorer but also closing in on 1,000 rebounds for her career.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach some good players. She has been so dominant,” Slate said. “She does so many things that make her teammates better.”
Johnson said she has been shooting for the player of the year award since her freshman year. Coming away with the victory Friday was even better.
“It feels really good,” Johnson said. “I just try to come out and do my best every game.”
It didn’t come easy against the feisty Eagles, who hassled North with a pressure defense and didn’t back down on the boards despite the Greyhounds’ size advantage.
“They are really intense when they play against us,” Slate said. “They pressure the ball, get in your grill and make you uncomfortable. Even if you don’t turn it over, they can get you in a rush.”
North went on a 13-1 run in the second quarter during a stretch when it forced the Eagles (18-6) into turnovers on three straight possessions. Coach Mandy Holt called two timeouts during the Greyhounds’ run. Sarah Bruce, who had 12 points, hit a 3-pointer to stop the bleeding.
The Greyhounds (18-6) threatened to run away with the game in the third, going ahead by nine points on a shot from March. But Joyner, who led Central with 17 points, went the length of the court in less than four seconds and drilled a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer.
“I thought my kids fought hard to the end,” Holt said. “It was two good teams battling for the championship in a great environment. It used to be North Surry-Mount Airy. Now it’s North Surry-Surry Central.”
Marlee Wilmoth finished with nine points and Tess Dockery had seven for the Eagles. Up next for both teams is the Class 2A West playoffs, which get under way on Monday night. The playoff brackets will be released today.
The all-tournament team was March and Morgan Hawks of North Surry, Dockery and Joyner of Surry Central, Kelli Mounce of South Stokes and Taylor McKinney of West Stokes. Johnson was named tournament MVP.
Details for the 1A ladies’ final were not available at press time.
North Surry 59, Surry Central 47
Surry Central126 18 11 — 47
North Surry11 13 15 18 — 59
Surry Central: Cassidy Joyner 17, Tess Dockery 7, Kelsey Taylor 1, Marlee Wilmoth 9, Kristen Key 2, Sarah Bruce 12, Brooke Lewis 1
North Surry: Maggie Hawks 6, Morgan Hawks 12, Jordan Badgett 4, Erin March 20, Malaya Johnson 23