NCHSAA Playoffs: Ledford girls outlast Cardinals, advance
Emmalee Thomas shrugged off a slow start Wednesday to finish with 19 points, as the Ledford Panthers rolled to a 57-34 victory over Berry Academy in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
The win also gave Panthers' coach John Ralls his 700th career victory. Following the game, Ralls was honored with a presentation after yet another postseason triumph.
"It just means I've been around for a while," Ralls said of the milestone. "In the second half, we started flowing and cutting and things opened up."
Leigh Anne Midkiff added 10 points and 13 rebounds for Ledford. Midkiff's work on the glass, combined with her ability to alter shots and passes in the lane, that jump-started a team which led just 23-15 at the half.
"It's all about the help defense. Emmalee did a great job of stepping up," Midkiff said. "All five players did a really good job of stopping them in the middle and playing really good defense. This was definitely a good game that helps us learn what we need to do when we play people who are taller than us."
Their opponents' length — Berry Academy started five players who were 5-feet-9 or taller — seemed to do little in the way of bothering the Panthers (25-3). More troublesome were the early missed shot opportunities and a plethora of turnovers.
Thomas could not knock down open three-pointers early in the contest, as her first trey came with seconds remaining in the first half. The senior found her rhythm in the third quarter, however, knocking down a pair of 3s en route to eight points in the period. The 20 turnovers which threatened to beset Ledford did not prevent the team from pulling away, though, because the defensive intensity at the other end forced 23 Cardinal turnovers.
"We're consistent on the defensive end every night," Ralls said. "They're not going to get down. When things aren't going well, they're resilient and patient. They have belief in themselves."
The Panthers are at home Friday night against No. 5 seed North Iredell (18-7).
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.