Ledford girls hold off North Iredell
Ledford girls head coach John Ralls was worried his team wouldn’t be ready after its big second round win Wednesday night against Berry Academy.
But his team proved him wrong and grinded out a 45-39 victory Friday night over No. 5 seed North Iredell in the third round of the NCHSAA 3A playoffs.
Courtney Callicutt recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Panthers, which also won its 16th consecutive game.
“It just goes to show that all the little things in practice that Coach Ralls makes us do really do have a reason and it is all paying off now,” Callicutt said.
Tied going into the fourth quarter, Ledford’s defense held the Raiders scoreless for the first 4:28 in the fourth quarter while going on a 6-0 run to start the quarter to take a commanding lead. North Iredell ran out of steam in the final minutes as the Panthers knocked down seven of its final nine free throws to ice the game.
“We did a good job staying in front and limiting their second chance scoring opportunities,” Ralls said. “They were really killing us in the zone with offensive rebounds at first, so we switched back to man defense, and I think that helped us block out better.”
Despite the low scoring game, Ledford enjoyed a 16-of-34 shooting night from the field, and defensively forced 13 turnovers.
Each team was able to disrupt the other’s offense with solid defensive pressure in the first half, but Ledford’s defense prevailed in the final minutes.
“Offense is going to win us games, defense wins us championships,” Callicutt said. “That’s what we’ve got our eyes on right now, a championship.”
Ledford struggled at times to put away the Raiders, and lost the lead several times in the third quarter. The lead changed six times in the third and was tied at 31 going into the fourth.
The Panthers also struggled with North Iredell’s top player, Mariah Johnson, who scored 11 of the Raiders’ 16 first half points and finished with 23.
“She had a great handle,” Callicutt said. “We know that in these final state tournament games there are teams that have a lot of players like her, so we need to be prepared for that.”
Ledford, the top seed in the 3A Midwest, moved on to the regional semifinals next week in Greensboro.
“We know they are a good team. They’re a lot like they were last year, and we took them to the final couple of possessions. I like our chances,” Ralls said.