by Joe Parker, Milton Herald
ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta girls basketball accomplished Thursday night what no team has done in nearly two years — beat Northview in a region game. The Raiders improved to 6-1 in region play and took over the lead in the 7-AAAAAA standings with their 59-53 win at home.
“All the credit goes to our girls,” Alpharetta head coach David Walden said. “They never give up. They play defense, they play with heart and they play like a family and that’s our motto. As coaches, we can put in schemes, but if they don’t execute and they don’t play hard we don’t win.”
The matchup of two teams ranked in the top-10 in the state in 6A featured plenty of momentum swings, but neither team was able to pull away.
The Raiders (13-1, 7-1) led for the first 15 minutes of the game, but never by more than six points. Northview then fought back to take their first lead in the final minute of the second quarter. The Titans came out strong following halftime and built the largest lead from either team, 36-26 midway through the third.
With his team suddenly trailing by double digits, Walden called a timeout that proved to be a turning point in the game.
“I told our players we needed to get back to Alpharetta basketball,” Walden said. “I told them we weren’t getting good shots and we aren’t taking care of the ball. And if we don’t do those things, it’s tough to play defense.”
Following the timeout, Alpharetta tightened their defense, and though Northview held a size advantage, the Raiders had solid performances from Grace Knutsen and Taylor Hood and caused multiple Northview turnovers in the second half.
With their strong defensive play and after scoring multiple baskets in transition, Alpharetta erased the deficit in four minutes to tie the game at 40-40.
The lead exchanged hands three times in fourth quarter with Ashlee Austin, Northview’s leading scorer, on the bench for three minutes of the period after incurring four fouls. Austin scored 13 points in the first half but was held to a single free throw in the second. She finished with a 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Alpharetta’s Gogo Maduka hit a 3-pointer to give the Raiders a 53-50 lead. A putback shot from Maya Richards gave the Titans the lead a minute later, but Alpharetta would regain a three-point lead with under a minute remaining.
The Titans had a chance to tie the game with 27 seconds left when Asjah Innis was fouled on a three point attempt, but she would miss two.
Sydnie Ward, who led the Raiders with 18 points, hit two free throws and a layup in transition following a Northview turnover to ice Alpharetta’s first win over Northview since 2012.
“This was a true team win,” Walden said. “They fought their tails off. They told me this game has been on their minds for a while and they were ready.”
Sydnie Ward 18 points
Kendall Phillips and Jaylyn Tillerson 11 points each
Croix Bethue 8 points, 4 assists, 4 steals
Juju Maduka 8 points, 7 rebounds
Gogo Maduka 3 points, 4 rebounds