NCHSAA Playoffs: Lady Panthers march on in 3-A tourney
Brie Grier made four crucial free throws in the final 72 seconds of Ledford's third-round 3-A playoff game with North Iredell to lift the Panthers to a 45-39 victory over the Raiders.
Mariah Johnson — who had 23 points to lead North — sunk an open three-pointer with 1:40 to play and pulled the Raiders within a 37-36 margin. Grier, however, stepped to the line and coolly drained a pair of shots from the charity stripe on each of Ledford's next two possessions.
"They were just tough in making those free throws," Panthers coach John Ralls said. "Brier Grier came in during that fourth quarter and took care of all that and played good defense."
Courtney Callicutt paced the Panthers with 16 points and attacked the paint to open the lane for teammates. More remarkable, Callicutt was able to put together one of her best offensive games of the season while chasing around Johnson.
"She did a great job," Ralls said. "She had to guard one of their best players, and did a nice job taking it to the basket."
Mackenzie Cranford provided a spark off the bench on both ends of the floor, scoring seven points as a supplemental scorer to help her squad overcome a tough night from Emmalee Thomas.
"They left big gaps in the middle. Our bigs did a good job of sealing out," Cranford said. "They were really hard on Emmalee and really didn't give her any open looks. She usually puts up a big amount of points for us and was limited tonight."
Grier finished with eight points.
The Panthers (26-3) will next face Harding University High School in a regional semifinal. Hardin is an institution from Charlotte which ousted Ledford in the second round of last year's playoffs before becoming the eventual state 3-A champions.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or at email@example.com.