The Flowery Branch girls basketball team saw its playoff run come to an end Wednesday night at the hands of Troup County in the Class 4A state quarterfinals matchup at Flowery Branch.
The Lady Falcons kept the game close to the end, cutting a nine-point fourth quarter deficit to just 4 with about a minute left to play, but could not come all the way back against the visiting Lady Tigers, falling 49-42.
“We felt like we were in the game the whole time, but just didn’t get the plays down there in the stretch,” Flowery Branch coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez said. “Missed box outs and things like that. But credit to Troup and how they played. Just real proud of our girls for how they’ve played the last couple weeks. This one does sting, but playing in the Elite 8 and competing in a game like that that you knew was one of the top teams was big.”
Senior Ashlee Locke led the way offensively in her last career game with the Lady Falcons pouring in 18 points, including all 7 points the team scored in the second quarter.
The contest started out as exactly the type of game Flowery Branch has been winning of late: a defensive grind.
The first score didn’t come until two minutes in, and neither team reached even 10 points in the opening eight minutes, with the Lady Falcons leading 9-8 going into the second.
The Lady Tigers found a little momentum from that point, running off on an 8-0 run through the middle of the second frame during a cold shooting streak for Flowery Branch. The Lady Falcons made just one shot from the field in the second quarter, getting 5 of their 7 points from Locke free throws.
Flowery Branch trailed by 4 at halftime.
Troup County pushed that lead higher down the back stretch of the third frame, but the Lady Falcons scored the last six points of the period to get it to within four going into the fourth.
The Lady Tigers again went out ahead early in the final quarter, using a 6-0 run early in the frame to build a nine-point lead, but Flowery Branch again fought back.
A timely 3-pointer from Shaina Kriews and a steal and score on the ensuing inbound from Locke made it just a 4-point game with little more than a minute to play, but that was as far as the Lady Falcons would go, as Troup County was able to put the game away at the free throw line.
Despite the loss, Newton-Gonzalez said she is proud of the way her team stuck together throughout an up-and-down and unusual season to find a way to pull off a couple of playoff wins.
“I hope that the story that they took away from it is when you think life is giving you a bad hand just with bad obstacles or whatever, it can turn around this quickly,” she said. “And that’s what happened.”