Both North Surry and Rutherfordton-Spindale Central carried a 22-5 overall record with them into the second round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs, but down the stretch, it was the Lady Greyhounds who proved superior, marching into the third round with a 68-50 win over the Hilltoppers.
North Surry will travel to Burnsville on Saturday to take on the Mountain Heritage (23-2) at 5 p.m. The Lady Cougars won the Western Highlands Conference title this season and have beaten Lake Norman Charter (61-36) and West Davidson (53-44) in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
It was all smiles after the first quarter of action in Ron King Gymnasium, as the Lady Hounds collected a nine-point lead over the Hilltoppers.
RS Central’s Jada Logan struck first, but Mikaela Johnson tied it up. Elle Sutphin owned the next six Hound points. Two and a half minutes into the game, the score was pulled an even 6-6 by Central’s Aliyah Whiteside. Maggie Hawks scored her first basket, followed by Johnson’s second, to give North a 12-9 lead. Jessy Nichols found nothing but net as she was left alone behind the arc with 2:30 left in the first. Johnson and Hawks each scored another basket before the end of the quarter. Sutphin was fouled on a scoring drive at the end of the first, and logged another three points to secure a 22-13 lead for the Greyhounds.
The Greyhounds outscored the Hilltoppers by four in the second to carry a lead of 40-27 at the break.
Central’s Caitlin Davis scored first in the second, but Johnson answered with two straight baskets before Sutphin got back in the scorebook off an assist from Taylor Duncan. Davis scored the next four in a row, and at the time, she was the only Hilltopper to score in the period. She would claim 12 of Central’s 14 in the second quarter. But it wasn’t enough to get her team closer. North’s Hannah Moxley scored all six of her points in the second quarter. Arin Bunker closed out the first half by splashing a three-pointer during the last second.
The Lady Hounds scored twice as many point as they Hilltoppers in the third quarter.
Already up by 13, North resolved to put it away after the break. Sutphin was the only player for each squad to score within the first minute of action. A minute later, Johnson followed, and the Greyhounds were on a 4-0 run before Central scored. Logan went to the line on two occasions that were within a minute from one another and scored three from the line. Then Johnson posted her second basket of the quarter, and was responsible for an 8-0 run with assists from Hawks and Sutphin before a successful trip to the free-throw line. For Central, the Hilltoppers registered just six additional points before the quarter ended, but for North Surry, Sutphin matched with six of her own to put her team in front 58-36. Johnson and Sutphin were the only two Greyhounds to contribute to the score. Johnson had 10 and Sutphin eight.
A minute and a half into the fourth, Tiana Shuff entered the scoresheet, claiming six points scattered throughout the next two and a half minutes. She had a jumper, a 3-pointer and a free throw. Central posted the next five points and later had another 5-0 run, but there was no coming back for the visitors.
In the win, Sutphin posted 21 points, and Johnson was next with 20. Both players played just three quarters of the contest. Shuff, Nichols and Moxley accounted for six points each. Sutphin grabbed 16 total rebounds in the victory. Nichols claimed the team high with four assists and registered three steals.