CONNELLY SPRINGS — This time, East Burke got North Surry in its own gym, and that made all the difference.
The Lady Greyhounds peaked at the right time this season, charging through the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference tournament and then going on the road and downing Salisbury in the first round of the 2A state playoffs earlier this week. That earned the Lady Hounds a date with East Burke, the state’s fourth-ranked team, and also the team that North Surry beat in last year’s West Regional final to reach the state championship game.
Unfortunately, this time the Lady Hounds had to play the Cavaliers at their place, as opposed to last year’s showdown at neutral Wake Forest University. East Burke held off North’s attempt at a second-half comeback and won 51-41.
The Cavaliers (27-1), champions of the Northwestern Foothills Conference, had a 14-6 run that bridged the first and second quarters and built an early 21-12 lead over North Surry. East Burke led 26-16 at halftime.
After the break, the Lady Hounds (16-13) scored three straight baskets to open the third quarter and tried to catch up in a hurry, but the Cavaliers answered the bell and had built the lead back to 38-29 as the teams went to the fourth quarter of play. North Surry made another run at the hosts in the final quarter, but East Burke made eight free throws in the stretch run and muted the Lady Hounds’ hopes of repeating last year’s performance against the Cavaliers, when the Lady Hounds came from behind to win with a 21-0 run in the fourth quarter.
The loss ended the North Surry careers of seniors Mikaela Johnson, Martha Holt, Taylor Duncan and Tiana Shuff, whose teams won or shared three WPAC regular-season titles, won two WPAC tournament crowns, one West Regional title and captured 77 victories in four seasons.
Johnson, in her final game for the Lady Hounds before heading off to join High Point University’s team, led North with 14 points. Holt added 13, Callie Willard five, Shuff four, Duncan three and Hannah Moxley two. Johnson ended her career with a double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds.
Murphy 58, East Surry 35
MURPHY — Everyone knew this would be a tall task, literally, and the Lady Cardinals couldn’t pull it off.
East’s girls opened the playoffs with a 30-point victory, but then had to travel to Smoky Mountain Conference champion Murphy for their second-round game Thursday night. The Lady Bulldogs are the state’s second-ranked 1A team, right behind Mount Airy, the team that beat them by one point in last year’s state quarterfinals.
East Surry was unable to overcome both a 277-mile bus ride and the powerhouse Murphy team, which features multiple six-footers led by 6’3” college signee Jessica Beckner, and lost 58-35 to end its season at 14-13.
The Lady Bulldogs (25-2) exploited their size advantage inside to build an early 10-point lead and led 34-17 at halftime. A strong fourth quarter by Murphy ended any hopes of a late rally by East Surry.
The loss ended the careers of East Surry seniors Bethany Clayton, Madison Bowman and Katlyn Creed. Clayton had 12 points and nine rebounds to lead the Lady Cardinals in both categories. Dasia Lambert added 11 points and five rebounds.