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High school basketball: Flowery Branch girls team turns efficient defensive effort into easy first-round win
The Lady Falcons grabbed seven steals in the first quarter without committing a single defensive foul
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Flowery Branch's Ashley Woodroffe steals the ball from Pickens' Mykenzie Weaver at Flowery Branch High School on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Contrary to one of the oldest sayings in sports, a good defense turned out to be the best offense for the Flowery Branch girls basketball team in Friday night’s first-round playoff contest against Pickens. The Lady Falcons converted seven first-quarter steals into 13 fast break points, and Flowery Branch quickly ran away with a 70-43 win to open the Class 4A postseason. 

“That’s kind of how we play,” Lady Falcons coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez said. “That’s typically how we’ve come out, is just playing solid defense.”

With the victory, Flowery Branch has claimed at least one win in state playoffs since Newton-Gonzalez took over as head coach four seasons ago. The Lady Falcons will advance to host St. Pius X for a second-round bout next week. 

Between now and then, Newton-Gonzalez said she’ll have plenty of homework to do in preparing for her team’s upcoming opponent. 

“At this point in the season, it’s all about knowing personnel, knowing people’s tendencies and locking in on what we have to do for the next game,” she said. “We’ll just refocus tomorrow and then be ready to hit the court on Monday.”

Ashley Woodroffe scored 25 points with three steals to lead the way for the Lady Falcons. 

Her quick hands proved to be the catalyst for a Flowery Branch team that struggled for a couple of minutes to start the game before catching fire midway through the opening quarter. Pickens’ Hattie Baker scored a pair of layups in the first two minutes, knotting the score up at 4-4 before Woodroffe got things going defensively. 

She grabbed two steals in three Dragonettes possessions, and went on a personal 6-0 run to help the Lady Falcons jump out to an early lead. Woodroffe stole another ball a minute later and dished to Ashley Scott for an open 3-pointer, and Flowery Branch was suddenly on top by nine. 

“I think we played well,” Woodroffe said. “We started off with really great energy, and that just led us to hit them early.”

The Lady Falcons scored the final 13 points of the opening frame — nearly making it 16 when Caroline Wysocki’s full-court heave at the buzzer rimmed out — and claimed a 24-7 lead eight minutes in. 

They kept things rolling in the second frame with an 11-4 run to start the period. Woodroffe notched five more first-half points, and her 3-pointer off the assist from Wysocki at about the midway point of the quarter stretched the lead to 24 before Pickens finally started to respond.  

Senior Dragonettes point guard Torie Williams scored eight points in the final four minutes of the half, hitting on a pair of contested 3s that helped Pickens fight back to within 20 points before the break. The Dragonettes kept up the heat in the third frame, getting eight more points from Williams, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that made it a 16-point game. But Pickens would go no further than that. 

Flowery Branch refocused to start the final period, going on an 11-1 run behind six more points from Woodroffe. Defensively, the Lady Falcons prevented Pickens from making a shot from the field until the final two minutes of the game. 

“Later on in the playoffs, we’re going to have to play a full four quarters,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “Just making sure our girls have that mentality and understanding that’s what they’re going to have to do, and keeping them in that mindset is something that we preach. I was proud of how they focused in the fourth quarter.”

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