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North girls rally vs. Tenn. team

ATLANTA -- Three minutes into the game and already down 10-0, there was no panic in the North Gwinnett camp.

Instead, North showed poise and confidence as the Bulldogs found their stride and eventually pulled out a 61-54 win over Lawrence County (Tenn.) on the opening day of the Peach State Holiday Invitational hosted at Holy Innocents'.

North (7-1) looked a little sleepy for the 10:30 a.m. start as the Bulldogs quickly fell behind in the first quarter.

But the tide turned before the end of the first eight minutes as North pulled to within 17-14 when shots began to fall and the Bulldogs' defense came alive.

"We were flat early and I thought we had to play through it," said North head coach Bryan Sellers. "I didn't see any reason to start calling timeouts. We just let our players dig deep, work it out and get into the game."

Trailing by three at the end of the first quarter, North pulled even at 31-31 going into the half on a running layup at the buzzer by Peyton Whitted.

"It seemed like every starter had two fouls heading into halftime and if we could just get to the half without any more foul trouble, we would be ok," said Sellers. "And Peyton's shot at the end of the half got us even and gave us some momentum for the second half."

The third quarter belonged to North as the Bulldogs outscored Lawrence County 24-13 to take an 11-point lead into the final period.

Most of the damage was done by Lexie Brown as the junior guard exploded for 11 of her game-high 20 points.

Brown also finished with nine rebounds and six assists to lead the North attack.

North pushed out to a 13-point advantage at 57-44 early in the fourth quarter before Lawrence County made one last run in the final minute of play.

But the Bulldogs withstood the Wildcats' charge and a pair of free throws by Brown with seven seconds remaining salted away the seven-point win.

Ariel Johnson added 18 points, four rebounds and six assists for North. The senior connected on five three-pointers and three free throws.

Whitted added 12 points and six rebounds for North.

"I thought Peyton did a good job of coming back with a strong effort after our tournament last week," said Sellers.

"She didn't play her best in those games, but she showed today why she is a Division I talent. She did a lot of good things for us today."

Keiana Gilbert led Lawrence County (9-5) with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Aryanna Gilbert added 15 points and six rebounds for the Wildcats.