Ledford girls move to second round

Feb. 26, 2013 @ 12:36 AM

Leigh Midkiff headed to the bench for the first time with 3:38 remaining in Monday night’s NCHSAA 3A girls basketball playoff opener.

“I was so tired,” the Ledford senior said with a smile. “I thought it was a little unusual. But I didn’t have a problem with it.”

Midkiff gave the Panthers too much production to give herself a break. She tallied 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals to pace top-seeded Ledford’s 51-28 victory over No. 16 A.L. Brown of Kannapolis. She scored four points during a decisive 10-2 first quarter, added a key play to halt a potential Wonders’ rally in the second and had a big hand in helping the visitors rack up 29 turnovers.

“Even when we were up, we still played like we were in a close game,” Midkiff said. “It really counts now.”

The Panthers, who improved to 24-3 heading into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. home game against either Parkwood or Berry, didn’t look their best. Ledford committed 24 turnovers – most of them in the second and third quarters – and even went through a stretch in the third quarter where the Wonders kept getting offensive rebounds off missed free throws.

Still, the outcome rarely felt in doubt. Midkiff and Courtney Callicutt (11 points, six rebounds, three steals) scored in the post in the first quarter, which ended with a 10-2 Ledford advantage after the Wonders shot 1-for-10 with eight turnovers in the period. In the second quarter, Brown pulled within 17-11 and forced John Ralls to call a timeout to steady his girls.

Emmalee Thomas answered with a 3-pointer, Midkiff converted a three-point play inside and Brie Grier added a bucket in a 10-1 run that ended the half with Ledford ahead 27-12. Jada Bell gave the Panthers good minutes in the third quarter to protect the lead, which stayed at 20 for most of the second half.

“Not our best executed game,” Ralls said. “We weren’t playing great, but we managed to do enough good things to win the game and not let them back in it.”

Thomas, who played limited minutes due to foul trouble, finished with nine points for the Panthers, while Grier added eight points. Guards Grier, Mackenzie Cranford and Julia Carroll moved the ball well – especially in the first half – as Ledford tallied five assists on its first 10 baskets.

Brown (9-16) got nine points from Bianca Moody and eight out of Raven Phifer.

“That’s a really good team we played and that’s the hardest we’ve played,” Wonders coach Mike Wolford said. “Overall, we did as good as we could.”