NCHSAA Playoffs: Ledford girls hold off North Gaston, 61-53

Feb. 25, 2014 @ 05:56 PM

The Ledford girls did not finish strong in a first round playoff game with North Gaston on Monday, but the body of work throughout the night was enough to advance them to Wednesday's second round.
A 19-point lead was reduced to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Panthers went 8-of-10 at the free throw line to keep the Wildcats a safe distance back in a 61-53 triumph.
“They hit some 3s and we were forcing some action at the end where we should have been patient,” said LHS head coach Chris Doby. “We made some mistakes, but the good news is the girls battled through and played pretty good defense at the end.”
Ledford led by three after one period, but used the second and third quarters to distance themselves from the 28th-seeded Wildcats. Julia Carroll and Courtney Callicutt combined for 22 points in the two stanzas, as the Lady Panthers doubled up North Gaston by outscoring them 32-16.
“When they went into a man-to-man defense, that is what we feel comfortable with,” said Doby. “We did a great job working the offense.”
After three quarters it was 46-27 LHS, but the Wildcats were not about to fold.
Though erratic at times on the offensive end earlier in the game, North Gaston began to put it all together. Down 20 with just about five minutes to go, they rattled off 12 straight points to trail 51-43. They shaved an additional point off the deficit a minute later, but the Panthers put the brakes on the rally and played even basketball to the end. Ledford went the final 2:42 without a field goal, but Carroll and Callicutt combined to make eight foul shots. The lead went back out to 12, with the closest North Gaston getting again was a seven point deficit with 11 ticks left.
“We are happy to survive here and advance to the next round,” Doby said. “We have an opportunity to get better. You are not going to see a team that is bad now. We hope to move forward.”
The fifth-seeded Panthers (22-5) will face No. 12 Freedom (19-8) Wednesday. They may have to go without starting point guard Mackenzie Cranford, who left the game in the third period with an ankle injury. Doby reported the swelling is not terrible, but was not overly optimistic his floor general would be available.
“The way she looked at me it is probably not good,” he said. “She said she heard it pop.”
Callicutt led the way with 20 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Carroll was one point behind with 19 points while Allie Fischer snatched 14 rebounds.

Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or