Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. North Gwinnett's Shay Fleetwood (1) goes up for two past Dacula's Alexandria Armah (24) on Tuesday.
SUWANEE — After coaching at North Gwinnett for over 20 years and heading Dacula's program for another five years, retired girls basketball coach Phil Hall traveled to North on Tuesday night to witness the meeting between his two former teams in the first round of the Jared Cook Holiday Classic.
While Hall declined to show allegiance to any school, the performance by his first employer would've made any coach smile as North ran away with a 76-36 win.
North received offensive contributions from 10 different players, led by 17 points from Ariel Johnson, as the Bulldogs (4-5) opened up a 3-0 lead 40 seconds into the game on a 3-pointer by Johnson and never trailed.
“We came out and played as a team tonight,” North head coach Bryan Sellars said. “That's always good. The bench also came out and played great and that really showed our depth.”
Along with Johnson, Lexie Brown displayed the team play Sellars was proud of by helping the offense with 12 points and five assists, while sparking the defense with five steals.
Despite falling behind early, the game was still in reach for Dacula as the Falcons (3-8) trailed 32-21 at the half.
But the opening minutes of the third quarter quickly spelled the end of the night for Dacula as North opened the third with a 13-0 run to extend the lead to 45-21.
It wasn't until 3:20 left in third when Dacula finally broke that streak with a basket by Kendelle Culpepper. By that time, the damage was done as Dacula scored just five points in the third to North's 21.
“We've had some third quarter let downs this year and I challenged them in the locker room to not have that happen tonight,” Sellars said. “We were looking to push the ball up the court.”
Shay Fleetwood of North played a huge role in the third quarter burst, coming off the bench to score 11 of her 12 points in the period.
Other reserves that helped North to the win were Keniesha Wilborn with eight points and seven points each from Cassidy Packer and Peyton Whitted.
After a solid offensive showing by the Dacula offense in the first half, points were scarce for the Falcons in the final 16 minutes as Dacula managed just 15 points in the final two stanzas.
“We played pretty good in the first half but that didn't carry over into the second half,” Dacula head coach Travis Young said. “The great start by (North) in the second half killed our momentum and took us out of our rythym. They're a good team and take advantage of any mistakes you make.”
Leading scorer for Dacula was Joni Weatherspoon with eight points, getting six of those in the fourth quarter, while Taryn Anthony scored all of her seven points in the first half.
With the win, North advanced to play Kennesaw Mountain today at 6:35 p.m. in the tournament's second round, while Dacula falls in the loser's bracket to play Chapel Hill at 12:10 p.m.