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High school basketball: Flowery Branch girls use second-half offensive explosion to blow by McDonough in Class 4A tournament first round
Flowery Branch forward Ashlee Locke looks for a pass against McDonough during the first round of the 2021 Class 4A state tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at Flowery Branch High School. - photo by Nathan Berg

The Flowery Branch girls basketball team started slow in Tuesday’s Class 4A tournament first-round matchup against McDonough, but heated up after the break to cruise to a 59-34 win. The Lady Falcons trailed by 2 points at halftime, but scored 41 points in the second half to blow away the visiting Lady Warhawks. 

The win sets up a road matchup against Marist for Flowery Branch this Friday. 

“I’m extremely, extremely proud,” said Flowery Branch head coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez. “The second half that we had was exactly what we wanted. We finally started running our game plan the way we had worked on it. Just getting our feet in the paint, the ball inside, and that opens up our 3-point shots.”

The rally started with senior forward Ashlee Locke’s post presence in the third quarter. After scoring just 6 points in the first half, Locke -- who picked up a double-double in the game with 22 points and 14 rebounds -- poured in 12 points in the third frame, helping to turn a 2-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead over the course of the next eight minutes. 

After Locke established an inside threat for the Lady Falcons, Bella Brick exploited the perimeter, hitting a pair of deep 3s late in the third that pushed the Flowery Branch lead ever higher. 

McDonough’s Nya Pope hit a 3 of her own to start the fourth quarter that seemed to give the Lady Warhawks some life, but the Lady Falcons responded by scoring the last 16 points of the contest, quickly turning the potential nailbiter into a blowout.

Flowery Branch has been playing solid defense of late, holding each of their last 10 opponents to 50 or fewer points, but offensive output has been less consistent. 

After the game, Newton-Gonzalez said she believes her group’s strong finish to the contest will help inspire them to keep the momentum going in the next round. 

“We didn’t have a great offensive first half, but in that second half we got that confidence back,” she said. “When we start playing free and we start relaxing a little bit, I know that’s hard to do in a state tournament environment, but things happen like they did in the second half. They trusted each other, trusted their teammates, and good things happened.”