North girls can't overcome slow start

MILTON — It was a long night for the North Gwinnett girls in the opening round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs on Saturday as they fell to Milton 63-43.

North (19-10) only managed to score 13 first-half points and never led against the Eagles (20-4), the Region 6-AAAAA champions.

The Bulldogs made things interesting at the start of the fourth quarter thanks to three quick buckets from center Annie Wheeler that closed Milton's lead to 40-30. Four consecutive North turnovers allowed the Eagles to go on a 15-0 run that finally put the game out of reach.

"We lost our composure and that's a problem we have," North Gwinnett girls coach Tony Watkins said. "We turn the ball over and then we try to get it all back right there and that causes us to turn it over again."

The combination of Milton's Nikki Dixon and Kris Puthoff-King was too much for the Lady Bulldogs as the duo scored 47 of the Eagles' 63 total points.

Wheeler led the way for North Gwinnett on the offensive end with 15 points but was one of four Bulldogs who fouled out on a busy night for the officiating crew.

Watkins spent most of the game jawing with the referees as the Bulldogs were called for 29 fouls — nearly twice as many as the number called against the Eagles.

"I'm not sure the refereeing was quite as bad as we made it out to be," Watkins said. "You've got to figure out how they're going to call the game and that's the way you go play and we didn't do that. We got caught up in the officiating and you can't get caught up in that, we've just got to go play."

In addition to North's foul trouble, the Bulldogs struggled from three-point land, shooting just 4 of 20 compared to Milton's 56-percent shooting percentage from behind the arc.

Watkins remained positive after the game and is content with the season the Bulldogs had, though he knows his team didn't do enough on Saturday to pull out the victory.

"I'm proud of the year we had, we won 19 games," Watkins said. "We could've played a little bit better today but that's kind of been our problem, we've been inconsistent and we didn't play very well today."