GRAY -- If it was up to Houston County, the slower, low-scoring pace dictated through the first half Friday against Northside in the GHSA Region 2-AAAAA tournament would have been just fine.
Unfortunately for Houston County, Northside threw a wrench into those plans in the second half.
The Eagles got their up-tempo offense going in the second half, and Northside won 66-55 to advance to Saturday’s tournament championship against Warner Robins.
“They are really good defensively, and they wanted to stall from the very beginning. They didn’t want to score and were hoping that we weren’t going to score, and we missed a lot of easy shots,” Northside head coach Scott Wynn said of the Bears. “I told them at halftime that we did everything right, we turned them over a bunch, but we just didn’t finish. I wasn’t real concerned. We were holding them to 20 points, and that is on pace for 40.”
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The Bears slowed the game down in the first half. Opting to stall the game’s pace, the Bears led 6-4 after a quarter and 20-19 at halftime.
“Our pace is important to us,” Houston County head coach Stephen Walls said. “We like to play at a speed that is slower, and (Northside) loves the fast pace. Their pace is very dangerous, and we allowed them to do that.”
Things indeed got dangerous for Houston County coming out of halftime.
A 10-4 third-quarter run put Northside ahead 33-25 prior to a pair of Jailan Haslem offensive putbacks and Trayvon Willis 3-pointer widened the lead to 40-28.
That brief offensive stretch was a microcosm of Northside’s second-half success once it got on track, as the Eagles found success in the paint and from the perimeter.
Haslem led Northside with 18 points and Willis added 12.
“We made one shot and got a turnover, and that really got us going,” Wynn said. “Our confidence went up, and we really started being able to finish around the basket.”
Even with the loss, the Bears have much to look forward to. Their berth in Friday’s semifinals locked them into the state playoffs, and a win in Saturday’s consolation game would give them the region’s No. 3 seed entering the playoffs.
Quinton Childs and Savion Fambo each had 12 points for the Bears, who are now 10-14.
“It’s been at least eight years since we’ve been (to the state playoffs). We’ve been waiting for that one win for the last six or seven years and finally got it,” Walls said. “It’s going to be a big step for our program in the future.”
WARNER ROBINS 61, JONES COUNTY 54
The Demons broke open a tight game coming out of halftime to lead by double digits before staving off a last-ditch rally by the Greyhounds. Jones County, which trailed by as few as six points in the closing minutes, was led by the hot shooting of Devin Wooten with 25 points and five 3-pointers.
Warner Robins found multiple was to get going offensively with three Demons scoring in double figures. Donovon Brown had 15 points, Nathan Curtis had 14 and Marquez Callaway had 12.