FLOWERY BRANCH — With one game under its belt, Flowery Branch High basketball coach Angela Middleton realizes that her team has a long way to go before it’s ready to compete with the elite of Region 7-AAA.
But it’s apparent that she and her young team are up for the challenge.
The Lady Falcons (1-0) opened their 2007-08 campaign with a 37-32 victory against Pace Academy in the first round of the Thanksgiving Hoopfest on Monday at the Falcons’ Fieldhouse.
"It was a huge win for us tonight," Middleton said, "Our kids are so young in the program, and it’s just important that we keep taking it one game at a time."
Flowery Branch, which trailed 8-6 after the first quarter, rebounded from the early deficit with help from senior Jessica Hart.
Hart and her teammates took advantage of a lax 2-3 zone defense, as she scored 12 of the Lady Falcons’ 16 second quarter points. She finished the game with a team-high 16 points.
According to Middleton, the team made an adjustment to switch to a high-low offense, which left the 6-foot-2 center open for multiple easy two-point buckets.
The adjustment paid off as the Lady Falcons took a 22-11 lead into the intermission.
Hart, who is only one of two seniors on the Lady Falcons’ roster, said that opening the season with a win was exactly what she had in mind.
"Tonight’s win was so important," Hart added," Me and Molly (May) have to combine together and get this young team going.
"We were talking in the locker room how we have to go to war every game, and me and Molly must lead our team to war."
Although Hart was pleased with the victory, she wasn’t completely satisfied.
"I felt like I could have done a little better on the defensive end," Hart said.
"The first half I did alright, but the second half I could have picked it up a little more."
Middleton added that if the Lady Falcons hope to be successful this season, they must play stellar defense.
"We’re asking our girls to give us everything they have on the defensive side every night," Middleton said. "We have to play defense this year."
Flowery Branch’s defense looked effective for three quarters, holding the Lady Knights (0-1) to eight points in the first quarter, three in the second and five in the third.
According to Middleton, the win was ugly, and the Lady Falcons can get better.
"We have so many areas to improve on," Middleton said with a smile. "It definitely wasn’t a pretty win, but a win’s a win."
Pace Academy made a late-game run, as guard Michelle Ivey scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, decreasing Flowery Branch’s lead to three points with 51 seconds remaining in the game.
But the fourth quarter rally came short, as sophomore point guard Danielle Miller secured the win for the Lady Falcons with a layup with 32 seconds left.
Flowery Branch sophomore Cashmere Champion finished the game with 10 points, and Miller added six.
Hart hopes that the early victory helps guide the Lady Falcons to their preseason goals.
"We all want to win every game at home," Hart said. "But more importantly, we want to make it to the state playoffs."
The Lady Falcons will play host to St. Francis in the Thanksgiving Hoopfest at 6 p.m. Wednesday.