DULUTH — When a Florida team had to drop out of the JumpOffPlus.com Holiday Invitational, Duluth got at automatic bye into the semifinals of the tournament’s Green Division.
The extra day off, though, was a mixed blessing for the Wildcats, who hadn’t played since Dec. 17. They got a very difficult opening game and no warm-up.
Alpharetta (10-1) jumped out to a 9-2 lead and Duluth (7-4) had to fight back the rest of the way. The Wildcats were within a point with two minutes left, but ended up losing 53-45.
Alpharetta sophomore Kylee Smith and Duluth’s cold shooting made the difference. While the Wildcats were regularly misfiring, Smith got Alpharetta off to its good start with 15 first-half points and finished with 27.
“I was pleased with our effort and with our defense overall,” Duluth coach Chad Pittman. “But we missed a lot of shots and it’s hard to contain Smith. She is one of the top sophomores in Metro Atlanta.”
Alpharetta, which hasn’t lost since its opener against Wesleyan, also has a defensive force inside with 6-foot-4 Delaney Hollenbeck. The junior blocked nine shots and had a game-high eight rebounds.
Katie Powell, a 6-foot-2 freshman, led Duluth 13 points. Sophomore guard Joie Jones came off the bench to score 11 and senior Kayla Nolan — a Georgia State signee — scored 10. Tarlesha Boles and reserve Tajai Pearson each had seven rebounds.
Alpharetta was deadly from the foul line and went there often. Smith was 8-for-8 and the Raiders 18-for-24 overall. Duluth was 6-for-9.
Alpharetta will play for the Green Division championship today at 3 p.m. Host Duluth will have to settle for the third-place game at noon.
While the Raiders are on a 10-game winning streak, Duluth has lost four of its past five games after a 6-0 start.
“We’re a work in progress,” said Pittman, in his first year as coach. “They’re still learning me and I’m still learning them. Playing good competition like Alpharetta can only help us. We want to be playing our best for the postseason.”
Girls Prep (Tenn.) 57, Mill Creek 50
Chadarryl Clay, a junior point guard, scored 25 points to lead Girls Prep of Chattanooga to a 57-50 victory over Mill Creek in a Green Division consolation game.
Mill Creek (6-6) led 17-6 in the first quarter, but Girls Prep (9-1) then went on a 15-0 run stretching into the second quarter and was up 30-25 at halftime. Mill Creek was down 44-34 going into the fourth quarter.
Jasmine Carter, just a freshman, led Mill Creek with 17 points — 11 coming in the first quarter — and Alecia Brookins scored 15.
Girls Prep was unbeaten until a loss to Dr. Phillips of Orlando in the first round. Mill Creek fell to Providence Day of North Carolina in its opening game.