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Class AAAAA basketball playoffs: Flowery Branch girls cruise past North Springs in opening round
Taniyah Worth nets 19 points, defense shines for the No. 2 seed in 58-32 win
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Flowery Branch's Julianne Sutton (42) dribbles around North Springs' Cierrah Perdue (23) Friday night as Flowery Branch hosts North Springs in first round of Class AAAAA state playoffs at Flowery Branch High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Area basketball playoff scores

First-round jitters kept No. 2 seeded Flowery Branch from completely taking off at the start of this year’s Class AAAAA state tournament.

But it didn’t take long to cure those ailments.

Despite a slow start, the Lady Falcons utilized a string of extended scoring spurts and a strong defensive stance to overwhelm No. 3 seed North Springs, 58-32, in Flowery Branch.

“It’s the state playoffs, it’s a little jittery and they were a little excited,” said Flowery Branch coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez, who captured her third playoff victory with the program. “We were a little sloppy. But after the first couple of minutes, I was pleased how we played, pushed the ball up the court.”

As for that five-hour ride to Statesboro, it’s still pending for Flowery Branch (22-6). It awaits the winner of top-seed Statesboro and Locust Grove, which is scheduled for today.

The date and time for second-round matchups are to be determined.

Newton-Gonzalez also attributed the win to a newfound focus gained from last week’s Region 8-AAAAA championship loss.

“We obviously didn’t play our best in that game (against Buford), and they know it’s playoff time,” added Newton-Gonzalez of the region title game loss. “I was proud of their focus this past week and kind of getting our team back underneath us, our feet back underneath us.”

The Falcons racked up the majority of their points in transition to eventually lead by as much as 32 in the fourth quarter.

A press-minded approach resulted in an opportune Falcons squad yielding the Spartans to single digits for three quarters, while creating 23 turnovers on the defensive side.

Flowery Branch junior guard Taniyah Worth, the game’s lead scorer with 19 points (four assists, six boards), took advantage early with five steals in the first half to keep the Spartans at bay.

“We had to get back to that,” the coach said on the approach. “That’s what our strength is. Our depth has hurt us a little bit this year, but we know our strength is the defense. ...It’s just a matchup-type thing. We definitely felt like we could press against this team, and I was pleased how they handled it.”

Flowery Branch jumped to a 4-0 lead early on consecutive putbacks by senior Julianne Sutton, but three misfires to follow allowed the North Springs to crawl back. A 5-0 run in response gave North Springs its only lead of the game at the midway mark of the opening period, before the Falcons vaulted themselves ahead for the final time.

The Falcons led by 21 at intermission after closing out the first two quarters on extended scoring runs. Back-to-back three-pointers by Worth and Lexie Sengkhammee (nine points) ignited a 14-1 surge that spanned for the latter half of the opening period, Worth accounting for 11 points and two steals during that span.

The Falcons ended the second frame on a 9-2 spurt boosted by Sengkhammee’s second trey to bring it to 38-17.

In the final quarter, Flowery Branch got baskets by senior Queen Scott, Caroline Wysocki and Carly Shaw, respectively, to close it out.

The Lady Falcons had two other starters amass double figures behind Worth, with Scott notching 12 points, followed by Sutton with 10 points with six boards.

“It was good to see them put the ball in the basket, and do some of the little things to hopefully carry into the second round,” added Newton-Gonzalez on their success.

Cierrah Perdue led the Spartans with 12 points, followed by Lyric Johnson with eight.

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