Courtney Newton didn’t like what she saw early from the Flowery Branch girls basketball team in the first quarter Wednesday night.
Newton, Flowery Branch’s first-year coach, called a timeout and delivered an animated talk to her players.
The Lady Falcons seemed to hear her message loud and clear.
Flowery Branch outscored Heritage 25-2 in the second quarter behind its suffocating defense and cruised to a 71-32 victory in the Region 8-AAAAA quarterfinals at Flowery Branch High. The Lady Falcons (25-1) clinched a berth in the state tournament and will advance to face Winder-Barrow in the region tournament semifinals Friday night at 7 p.m. at Winder-Barrow High School in Winder.
“I just thought we got complacent shooting threes there a little bit,” Newton said. “They’ve just got to learn that if we’re shooting a lot of threes and they’re not going in, we’ve got to do something a little bit different. I just had to get into them a little bit.”
Julianne Sutton led the Lady Falcons with 17 points, nine of which came during that dominant second quarter. Queen Scott (11 points), Janoah Williams (10) and Taniyah Worth (10) were also in double figures for Flowery Branch.
Camille Saunders led Heritage (13-14) with 12 points, and Asia Caldwell added 10.
Flowery Branch forced 31 turnovers, including 22 in the first half, but they weren’t translating into points early on. Despite forcing nine turnovers in fewer than six minutes of play, the Lady Falcons had only established a slim 7-5 lead when Newton called timeout with 2:14 remaining in the opening period.
“We started off slow, but obviously I’m proud of how we turned it around and played defensively down the stretch,” Newton said. “We’ve been about that all year, just getting buckets off our defense, and that’s what we weren’t doing early. That’s what gets us going and then the threes come later, and that’s what happened tonight as well.”
Flowery Branch scored 24 of its 25 second-quarter points in the paint and led 38-9 at halftime. The lead grew to as many as 41 points, 52-11, near the end of the third quarter.
The victory extended the Lady Falcons’ winning streak to nine games.
“It was a big win, obviously, clinched a playoff berth,” Newton said. “Just to get the first game of the tournament out of the way and to see them play well in the first game (was nice). Anytime tournament time comes it’s a little bit different, more stakes are out there.”
Flowery Branch will now face Winder-Barrow for the third time this season. The Lady Falcons won the first meeting 51-47 on Jan. 12, before picking up a more comfortable victory over the Bulldoggs, 56-41, on Jan. 29.
“We beat them twice (this year), but we know they’re ready,” Newton said. “We know they’re going to bring some things at us. (Our players) know what the stakes are and that every game from here on out is going to be a battle.”