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Hetzel's treys help Flowery Branch girls top Winder-Barrow, earn spot in 8-AAAAA title game
Lady Falcons (26-1) face Loganville 6 p.m. Saturday at Winder-Barrow High
Maddie Hetzel drives to the basket Friday night during Flowery Branch's Region 8-AAAAA semifinal game against Winder-Barrow in Winder. - photo by Adam Wynn

WINDER — Maddie Hetzel’s first 3-pointer put Flowery Branch back on top for good Friday night. Her final dagger from beyond the arc sealed the win.

The Flowery Branch senior scored nine of her team-high 12 points on three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of the Region 8-AAAAA semifinals, and the Lady Falcons defeated the tournament host Lady Bulldoggs 41-36 at Winder-Barrow High. The Lady Falcons (26-1) will face Loganville at 6 p.m. today with a chance to claim their first region championship in program history.

“We felt a little bit of pressure, but we know that we can get the job done,” Hetzel said. “The (first) three (I hit) ... was a momentum shifter, but that wasn’t what won the game for us.

“My teammates were there; it wasn’t just me. Without them setting screens for me, I wouldn’t have hit the shot. We all put in our best and got the win.”

Taniyah Worth and Julianne Sutton added nine points apiece for Flowery Branch. Chellia Watson led Winder-Barrow with 14 points, while Latrice Perkins added 12.

Flowery Branch is now responsible for three of Winder-Barrow’s five losses this season, but the latest win over the Lady Bulldoggs (22-5) was the most difficult to earn.

“It’s extremely hard to play a team three times, especially a team like Winder that is young and talented and can hurt you in so many ways,” said Courtney Newton, Flowery Branch’s first-year coach.

“I thought they slowed the game down a lot (this time) and didn’t let us get a lot of transition buckets, which I was not pleased with at halftime. We normally get it out and go even if it’s a make or a miss, and they did a really good job of getting back and obviously not letting us score off our defense.”

Winder-Barrow took a 28-26 lead into the fourth quarter before Hetzel — who scored her first four points in the opening period — knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:36 left in the game to re-establish the lead for Flowery Branch, 29-28.

The Lady Falcons were still clinging to only a two-point advantage when Hetzel drained her second 3-pointer, this time on a fast break, to pad the lead to 37-32 with 2:27 remaining.

“(Her 3-pointers) were huge,” Newton said. “She’s done that for us all year, knocking down big shots. ... In big games, she does that.”

Perkins came up with a steal and a transition layup for the Lady Bulldoggs to make it a one-possession game, 37-34, with 1:57 remaining, but Sutton responded with a layup off of a nice pass inside from Worth with 1:18 remaining.

Worth later hit a pair of free throws with 26.8 seconds remaining to put the finishing touches on the victory.

Both teams failed to gain any separation early in the game. Neither squad led by more than two points until Caroline Wysocki hit a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining in the first period to put Flowery Branch ahead 12-9 going into the second quarter.

Worth knocked down a 3-pointer of her own 50 seconds into the second quarter, then tacked on a put-back with 5:22 remaining in the period to cap a 10-0 run that put Flowery Branch ahead 17-9.

Winder-Barrow narrowed the gap to 18-16 on a 3-pointer by Watson with 3:20 left before halftime, but that shot marked the Lady Bulldoggs’ final points of the first half. Flowery Branch took advantage of five Winder-Barrow turnovers in the final three minutes of the second quarter and pulled ahead 22-16 going into halftime.

Winder-Barrow pulled ahead 28-26 going into the fourth quarter by holding Flowery Branch to only two field goals in the third period.

“It was just one of those wins where you had to gut it out and people stepped up, played well and played their roles to get the win,” Newton said.

GAINESVILLE BOYS 60, SALEM 55: Gainesville knocked off Salem in a contest that was never as close as the final score indicated. The Red Elephants advanced to face Cedar Shoals in the Region 8-AAAAA championship game at 7:30 tonight at Winder-Barrow High.

D’Marcus Simonds (15 points), Tae Turner (12) and Michael White (11) were all in double figures for Gainesville. Brandon Smith scored a game-high 24 points for Salem.

Gainesville established an early 12-1 lead and remained comfortably ahead 21-8 after one quarter. The Red Elephants extended the advantage to 20 points, 34-14, on a pair of free throws by Turner with 2:51 remaining in the second quarter and led 36-20 at halftime.

Gainesville struggled to get shots to fall in the second half, and the Seminoles cut the lead to 42-31 with 1:39 remaining in third quarter. The Red Elephants pushed the advantage back to 19 at one point in the fourth quarter.

Salem chipped away down the stretch but never presented a real challenge to Gainesville’s lead.