MOUNT AIRY — Tavia Sykes made two free throws with less than a minute remaining in overtime and the Flowery Branch girls basketball team held on to defeat Heritage 43-42 on Monday in Mount Airy in the opening round of the Region 8-AAAA tournament.
With the win, the Lady Falcons set up a date with Madison County, the second seed from the north subregion, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Winder-Barrow High. The winner will earn a berth in the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Flowery Branch (8-18) trailed by as many as 12 points in a first half in which they committed 17 turnovers.
“We had more turnovers in the first half than we had shot attempts and rebounds,” Flowery Branch coach Hazel Hall said. “You’re not going to beat anybody like that.”
After being held scoreless for almost seven straight minutes through the first and second quarters, the Lady Falcons went into the half down 26-16.
Hall said the coaching staff spoke strongly to the team in the locker room.
“We challenged them to not quit, to get shots to fall and to limit turnovers,” Hall said. “We challenged them to get back in the game.”
Cara Chilton answered the challenge, scoring 11 of her team-high 16 points in the second half, Chilton said she turned up her effort after halftime.
“The coaches weren’t sure we could do it, but I want to prove we could,” Chilton, a junior, said. “I’m one of the most experienced players on the team and I knew I had to step up.”
Flowery Branch opened the half on a 9-2 run to get within three in the third quarter, and then withstood an 11-point surge from Heritage to tie the game at 39 with 30.9 seconds remaining in regulation on a converted 3-point play from Chilton.
After a Heritage miss and a Chilton rebound, Hall called timeout and drew up a play for Sykes. The sophomore got a clear look at the basket, but the ball rimmed out sending the game to overtime.
Flowery Branch held Heritage to just three points in the first quarter, but was outscored 22-7 in the second.
Breanna Mitchell scored a game-high 19 points for the Lady Patriots (11-14), whose season is complete.
HABERSHAM CENTRAL GIRLS 60, SALEM 47: The Lady Raiders took a 4-0 lead to open the game and never trailed from there, winning Monday in Mount Airy.
With the win, Habersham Central moves on to face top-seeded Loganville at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday with a playoff berth on the line at Winder-Barrow in the second round of the Region 8-AAAA tournament.
Habersham Central (19-7) was led by 14 points each from Brianna Barrett and Haley Gerrin.
Emily Robinson added 12 points for the Lady Raiders, who led 30-21 at halftime and by 60-38 with less than two minutes left in the game.
In the first game of the day, Cedar Shoals defeated Winder-Barrow 47-31. Cedar Shoals will play Clarke Central at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Winder-Barrow.