NewBridge Classic: Lady Panthers earn semifinal win
Emmalee Thomas scored nine of her team-leading 15 points in the fourth quarter Thursday to power Ledford to a 49-39 victory over South Davidson in a semifinal of the NewBridge Bank Christmas Classic.
In the nightcap, Ledford's boys were walloped, 79-54, by Central Davidson. Chris Pompey led the Spartans with 26 points and John Hanes added 22 to help Central hand the host Panthers a lopsided defeat.
A spirited effort by South Davidson's girls was unrewarded largely due to Ledford's size advantage at every position on the court. Thomas was held in check during the first half, scoring a single three-point field goal through two quarters. Subsequently, the Wildcats and Panthers (10-2) were tied at the break.
Madison Sigmon, who poured in 20 points to lead all scorers, beat the halftime buzzer with a running layup to knot the score at 19. South held its own in the third quarter, as well, and trailed just 32-29 going into the final period.
The game's final eight minutes, however, belonged to Thomas, who got free for open looks and nearly matched the Wildcats' fourth-quarter scoring output. Leigh Ann Midkiff added 12 points and eight rebounds before fatiguing in the third quarter and deferring to Ledford's closer.
"We were able to get some breaks, Emmalee Thomas got some shots to go down and we hit our free throws at the end," Ledford coach John Ralls said. "She started coming off curls and did a nice job taking it to the basket against smaller defenders."
Thomas also helped spearhead a defense that allowed little in the paint. The size advantage was so decidedly in the Panthers' favor that South avoided penetrating in its half-court, instead executing a run-and-gun offense that had its opponents gasping for air at the break.
"We had a significant size advantage, but early on, they had us doing what they wanted," Ralls said. "In the second half, the pressure helped a little bit and the zone cut off their dribble penetration. It was good for us to get a win in that situation."
The Panther boys were not quite as fortunate, with Pompey and Hanes working efficiently on both ends of the court.
"We knew Pompey was going to big, but he just killed us," Leonard said. "They just outplayed us. They out-coached us; they did everything we didn't do. We turned the ball over consistently and we can't play defense if we're turning the ball over."
Brandon Rothrock scored 16 points and Skylar McGee added 13, but most of those were scored long after the outcome had been decided. Central led 32-15 at the half, courtesy of 16 Ledford turnovers.
The Spartans' most formidable advantage was on the offensive glass, where Pompey and Hanes boarded nearly every missed free throw.
"We're starting to learn how to play our offense," Hege said. "We were really efficient offensively tonight. When our bigs play like that, especially Chris, and control the board on the offensive and defensive ends...I think that is the biggest key."
Ledford (5-6) was coming off an impressive road win at North Davidson just eight days ago, but looked lost Thursday.
"It's like Jekyll and Hyde," Leonard said. "We just weren't here tonight, and it's a shame because we seem to play better away than we play here. I told the guys it's almost embarrassing that this is how we play because we know what we can do, but then we show up and do this.
"I still believe in them and I know they'll come back and play stronger and harder. We just have nights like this."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.