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North girls take down Patriots again

SUWANEE -- If Julie McCutcheon can help it, she would prefer her Berkmar girls basketball team not play another game against North Gwinnett on their home court.

The Patriots opened the season in a Thanksgiving tournament against the Bulldogs and played their worst game of the season. They didn't fare much better in a return trip at the Jared Cook Holiday Classic.

North Gwinnett's defense turned up the pressure in the second half to pull away for a 42-33 win, snapping a five-game winning streak for Bekmar.

"We couldn't adjust to their pressure and we stunk it up," McCutcheon said. "Our intensity wasn't even close to where it should be when you're playing a team on their home court."

North (6-4) will play Newton in the semifinals of the tournament today at 6:35 p.m. Newton defeated Colquitt County 55-40 in the opening round.

"It's a lot better feeling knowing you're playing in that later game," North Gwinnett head coach Tony Watkins said.

Berkmar (5-5) will play Colquitt County in the consolation bracket today at 12:10 p.m.

The Patriots trailed 7-6 in the second quarter and went on a bit of a run thanks to Tynisha Bledsoe. The sophomore came off the bench and scored all of her team leading 10 points in the final 4:22 of the half. She hit two 3-pointers in the final two minutes, including one at the buzzer to give Berkmar a 16-10 halftime lead.

"We try to take away a team's best player or two and make someone else beat us," Watkins said.

By the end of the third quarter though, North had climbed backed in the game and tied it on a pair of free throws by Shay Fleetwood. Bledsoe got in foul trouble and the Patriots couldn't find another offensive threat.

"We just really gave in to their full-court pressure," McCutcheon said. "We couldn't keep the fire burning."

Abby Slocumb's assist to Annie Wheeler gave North a 22-20 lead with 2:20 left in the third and the Bulldogs never trailed again. Stephanie Wheeler (13 points) and Annie Wheeler (10 points) were North's leading scorers.

North pushed its lead to 14 in the fourth quarter after Stephanie Wheeler hit the front end of two free throws. The Bulldogs made 10 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter and were 17 of 24 in the game. That was the most impressive offensive stat as North shot 21 percent from the floor and hit just 1 of 17 3-pointers.