Flowery Branch center Ashlee Locke said the team had its best warmup of the year ahead of Wednesday night’s second-round home playoff bout against St. Pius X, and it showed.
The Lady Falcons dominated both ends of the ball from start to finish, putting on one of their most complete performances of the year as they took down the Lady Golden Lions 67-19 in the Class 4A playoffs.
“Going into a game like that and having the mentality that we did, we were ready,” Locke said. “We weren’t going to stop until we got what we wanted.”
The win sets up Flowery Branch with a fourth consecutive state quarterfinals appearance. The Lady Falcons have advanced this far in the playoffs every year since head coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez took over the program.
“I was just proud of how we locked in the whole game and just didn’t take a play off,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “I’m not sure who we have next, but it’s the Elite Eight. I know the matchup will be tough.”
Locke led the way for Flowery Branch, coming up just shy of a triple double with 17 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks. Newton-Gonzalez said Locke’s matchup against St. Pius post player Wylie Sheridan was one she was watching with particular interest.
Sheridan is one of the only bigs Flowery Branch has played all season who is as tall as Locke, and Newton-Gonzalez said Wednesday’s game would be a big test for her sophomore center.
It was a test Locke seemed to pass with flying colors.
“It was definitely a big change, because there’s been basically nobody near my height in all of our other games,” Locke said. “(The key was) just playing to a different level, playing to a level I know I can play at, and not playing down to another girl’s level. Just playing to somebody I know that is at the same ability that I am.”
Sheridan scored just six points all game, as Locke defended the rim throughout the contest.
The game was never truly in question, and Flowery Branch controlled things from the outset. Caroline Wysocki knocked down a deep two-point basket less than 10 seconds in, and the Lady Falcons would hold that lead for the remainder of the night.
Senior guard Ashley Woodroffe scored eight points in the opening five minutes as Flowery Branch outscored St. Pius 23-5 in the first quarter, at one point rattling off a 19-1 run.
Despite their gaudy lead, the Lady Falcons kept things locked down defensively in the second period. Locke picked up a pair of blocks and the team allowed just one made shot in the entire frame.
“That’s what we were looking for defensively,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “I thought they really locked in in half-court defense.”
Flowery Branch carried a 23-point lead into the third quarter, but the Lady Falcons were just getting started.
Wysocki, Ashley Scott and Morgan Aguilar all hit on 3s, and Locke added a 3-point play in the post off a feed from Woodroffe, as Flowery Branch’s lead ballooned to 41 heading into the final quarter. Despite playing primarily reserves in the final period, the Lady Falcons allowed just three points in the closing eight minutes as they cruised to the easy win.
It was a near-perfect performance from Flowery Branch, but according to Locke, there’s still plenty of work to be done.
“Our main goal is a state championship, so we’re all just going to strive to do better next time, and not just take what we did and be OK with what we did last time,” she said. “We know we can always do better.”