ALBEMARLE — Alex Atkins scored a career-high 30 points along with seven rebounds to lead the Lady Bears past Albemarle 88-67 in the second round of the 1A West playoffs on Wednesday night.
Mount Airy (21-5) advanced to the sectional final and will travel to Winston-Salem Prep on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The Lady Bears flexed their Northwest 1A Conference muscles against the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Mount Airy had 30 assists as a team, led by Davi Barbour (nine) and Mikayla Seivers (five).
Jasmine Varney had 18 points and seven rebounds. Kathryn Beasley had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ayano Shelton had 14 points off the bench.
Mount Airy led 30-18 before Albemarle, the top seed from the Yadkin Valley Conference, responded with a 20-5 run to close out the first half. The Lady Bears answered with a 31-10 third-quarter explosion.
Coach Howard Mayo said the team calmed down and got good shots in the third.
“We came out the first possession and we got two offensive rebounds before we knocked down an open 3 to tie it up,” Mayo said. “We knew we could continue to run, which was evident in the second half. They became fatigued and we continued to run. We had a bunch of scoring opportunities by a bunch of people.
“I thought we as a team, we understood the situation. We understood if we kept playing our basketball game, if we continued to push the ball, we would be OK.”
While Seivers pushed the tempo at point guard for the offense, Mayo said Barbour and Skyler Flippen did an excellent job of harassing the Bulldogs’ guards on defense.
Atkins and Shelton each had 11 points in the third quarter.
“I thought (Alex) had a good game on the boards for us as well as scoring,” Mayo said. “She did a good job a couple times of pump-faking and driving to the basket which created more scoring opportunities for other people.”
Akela Branch led all scorers with 46 points for Albemarle, which finished the season 22-4.
The rugged Northwest Conference still has four teams alive in the state playoffs. Atkins will meet eight-time defending state champion Bishop McGuinness in another playoff game Friday.
“It just shows you how tough our conference is,” Mayo said. “I think we feel like we are playing very well. The past two games we’ve scored an average 84 points a game. We are averaging 25 assists a game. As a coach that makes you extremely happy because your players are doing a good job sharing the ball.”
The Phoenix and Bears split during the regular season and Prep defeated Mount Airy in the conference tournament. The Phoenix had little trouble with River Mill Academy on Wednesday, winning 85-39.
“We are going to have to do a good job of handling the pressure they throw at us,” Mayo said. “They do a good job of pressuring the passes as we try to get the ball inside. And we’ve got to box out and rebound.”
Mount Airy 88, Albemarle 57
Mount Airy 20 15 31 22 — 88
Albemarle 18 20 10 17 — 67
Mount Airy: Alex Atkins 30, Jasmine Varney 18, Kathryn Beasley 14, Ayano Shelton 14, Davi Barbour 2, Alexis France 2
Albemarle: Akela Branch 46, Kyleigh McLendon 10, Curry 8, Howard 4, Hutchins 1