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Knight comes to rescue for Flowery Branch as Falcons top Northside to earn state quarterfinal berth
Senior sharpshooter knocks down five 3-pointers in second-round victory over Patriots
Flowery Branch's Kierra Knight, left, tries to get past Northside-Columbus' Jasmine Herndon on her way to the basket Friday night during the Falcons' second round Class AAAAA state playoff game at the Flowery Branch High gymnasium.


Friday’s games


Class A first-round game

Lakeview Academy girls 60, George Walton 33

Second-round games

Class AAA

West Hall girls 60, Washington County 48

Laney 64, Dawson County girls 45

Class AAAA

Buford girls 59, Mt. Zion 48


Flowery Branch girls 59, Northside- Columbus 41

Columbus 47, Gainesville girls 42


Class A first-round game

Lakeview Academy boys vs Hebron Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Class AAA

East Hall boys vs Westside-Augusta, 6 p.m. Saturday

Banks County boys at Central, 4 p.m. Saturday

Lumpkin County boys at Laney, 6 p.m. Saturday


Gainesville boys at McIntosh, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Battered, bruised, but unbowed, Flowery Branch is back in the state quarterfinals. 

The Falcons (29-1) topped visitors Northside 59-41 in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs, ensuring their next matchup against top-ranked Brunswick at Columbus State University 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Kierra Knight (16 points) knocked down five 3-pointers, including a momentum-shifting trey at the end of the second quarter, as Flowery Branch overcame a poor shooting night in the first half to extend a 13-game win streak.

The victory meant everything for Flowery Branch's first-year coach Courtney Newton, who helped lead the Lady Falcons to their first state quarterfinal appearance as a freshman in 2003.

"It's so much better, as a coach," said Newton. "I was telling a coach earlier that I never knew that coaching could give me this much joy. To see these kids perform, as an adult, you see the bigger picture. It's so great to see."

Sophomore Taniyah Worth led the way with 17 points for Flowery Branch, while Julianne Sutton chipped in eight and Maddie Hetzel had seven.

Jessica Herndon and Jasmine Herndon both scored nine points each for the Patriots (20-8), who led by eight in the second quarter, but managed just one field goal in the third quarter as the Falcons opened up a 39-23 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Flowery Branch outscored Northside 19-4 in the third quarter, which included four unanswered treys between Knight and Heather Moore.

Knight returned to action after suffering an injury in the second quarter to knock home her first trey of the night and give Flowery Branch a 20-19 halftime lead after Northside had shot out to a 15-8 lead.

"I came back out and noticed that the team was down, and I thought 'My team needs me, I can't just sit on the bench moping,' so my team got me open and I was making good shots."

The victory nearly claimed three of the Lady Falcons' most talented players. Maddie Hetzel pulled up with a hamstring issue in her right leg early in the first quarter, Knight was helped to the locker room after falling soon after, and senior Breanna Locke nearly re-injured her left eye, which has already undergone two surgeries so far this season.

All three players will be monitored throughout the week, according to Newton.

Patriots first-year coach Barbara Lowe said her team gave up too many turnovers in the second half as Flowery Branch's lead grew larger.

"I think they started to overthink things on offense, trying to think too much instead of just play," Lowe said. "But I feel proud about this season, about our seniors. We're family, and that's what's been the focus."

Flowery Branch was far from fluid to open the game, allowing Northside to open up a lead through buckets from four different Patriots, including a Tselem Gahagan trey.

Hetzel and Knight were both missing early in the second quarter when Jessica Herndon and Gabi Apiag helped to push the Northside lead, but Worth paced the Lady Falcons with seven of Flowery Branch's 12 second-quarter points.

Then, Knight marked her return with a 3-pointer that raised the roof at Flowery Branch.

She quickly followed that up with three more as the Falcons opened up a 17-point lead to enter the final eight minutes.

"Her entire shooting night was awesome," said Newton. "Whenever one player's not having a good night on this team, another steps up for us."

Now, the focus will shift to staying healthy through the rest of the week. Locke said she had regular visibility in both of her eyes after receiving contact late in the fourth quarter. The senior only recently returned to action in a limited role after suffering an orbital fracture on Dec. 28 during the Lanierland tournament. 

Flowery Branch next faces top-ranked Brunswick, who topped Creekview 54-41in the second round after outscoring their opponents 27-7 in the fourth quarter. The Lady Pirates went 17-of-24 from the foul line in the final period. 

"Every team is a champion in their own respect during this point in the season," said Newton. "When you're at this point, everyone's capable of winning ita all, and we'll be ready for it."

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