Prep Playoffs: Freedom ousts Ledford, 59-58
Freedom Patriots guard Ariyana Williams sunk a free throw with 14 seconds remaining to cap a 25-point performance and down Ledford 59-58 in the second round of the 2014 NCHSAA 3-A playoffs Wednesday.
“She’s special,” Patriots coach Amber Fox said. “It’s not often that you get a freshman who is a go-to player. That’s what she is. I feel like with her, the tighter the situation, the more clutch she is. That’s just the kind of kid she is.”
Williams, a freshman guard, gave her squad the one-point margin, but had to sweat out a wild final sequence of events. After making one of two from the line, the Patriots (20-8) watched as senior forward Courtney Callicutt charged into the lane and drew contact, but lost the ball out of bounds.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, Williams caught the ball near midcourt and initiated contact, this time beckoning a whistle for an offensive foul that gave Ledford (22-6) the ball with 2.5 seconds and a chance to win the game. Callicutt attempted one last heave, but her desperation attempt was deflected and the ball fell to the floor, setting off a celebration for Freedom.
“In the chaos, they were just able to make the plays they needed to make,” Fox said.
After defeating North Gaston in the opening round of the postseason, the Panthers were unable to defeat a group that created matchup problems all over the floor. Forward Krissy Surratt, who had 14 points, was a menacing presence in the paint, beating Ledford’s frontcourt players to several loose balls.
It was ultimately the Panthers’ inability to corral defensive rebounds that allowed Freedom to assume possession of the game.
“We didn’t play our best game, but the girls laid it on the line and never quit,” Ledford coach Chris Doby said. “We’ve got 22 wins this season, but the character and pride they developed over the year is more outstanding.”
Callicutt was saddled with foul trouble in the first half during a stretch in which Freedom built an 11-point advantage. She whistled for her second foul midway through the first quarter, forcing her to the bench for most of the first half.
The Patriots were able to get the ball to their best player in that span of time, as Williams scored eight points in the second to put her team up by eight at the half. It was also during that time when Ledford became flummoxed by the Patriot press.
“In the first four minutes of the second quarter, we committed more turnovers during that span of time than we did all night,” Doby said. “Part of that was the defense Freedom put on us. I think we tried to get into a frantic pace. I think we let them set the pace for about six and a half minutes.”
Julia Carroll led the Panthers with 21 points, and Callicutt had 12. Allie Fisher finished with 16.