Gardner, tough defense lift Brookwood to first-round win

Photo: Brian Kamer Brookwood's Rebecca Walker (5) shoots over Chattahoochee's Cassidy Gaillard (13) during Wednesday's game at the Deep South Shootout.

Photo: Brian Kamer Brookwood's Rebecca Walker (5) shoots over Chattahoochee's Cassidy Gaillard (13) during Wednesday's game at the Deep South Shootout.


Photo: Brian Kamer Brookwood's Alliah Jackson (32) shoots over Chattahoochee's Katie Upchurch (10) and Sara Kinkelaar (21) during Wednesday's game at the Deep South Shootout.

SNELLVILLE -- It wasn't always pretty, but Brookwood's girls basketball team managed to get the job done in its opener of the 2011 Deep South Classic.

The Broncos used defense to get that job done, brushing off nearly two weeks of rust to charge past Chattahoochee 43-33 on Wednesday at the school's Maroon Gymnasium.

"We hadn't played since the 16th of December, and it showed," Brookwood girls coach Scott Terry said after the Broncos (6-6) advanced to play No. 7 state-ranked North Cobb in today's 6 p.m. semifinal. "But I was real proud of the defensive effort. We held (Chattahoochee) to 33 points. I told our kids (that) anytime you hold a team to under 40 points, that's a good effort."

The defensive numbers were seen in more than just the 33 points Brookwood allowed Chattahoochee (2-7).

That was especially true after the midway point of the second quarter that the visiting Cougars opened by scoring nine straight points to take their biggest lead at 18-9 after Cassidy Gaillard's 3-pointer with 4:23 left in the first half.

After that point, Chattahoochee didn't score again for the remainder of the half and the first 4:14 of the third quarter, and didn't manage another field goal until Erin Morrow's layup with 5:53 left in the fourth quarter.

Brookwood also forced 23 of Chattahoochee's 25 turnovers in the final three quarters and dominated the boards by holding a 45-33 rebounding advantage.

And while the Broncos had their own trouble scoring early, they finally got into a bit of an offensive rhythm behind Courtney Gardner.

The 5-foot-10 junior scored the last of Brookwood's eight straight points in the final 4:04 of the second quarter to cut Chattahoochee's lead to just 18-17 at halftime, and then hit a 3-pointer 1:19 into the third quarter to vault the Broncos in front for good at 20-18.

But she echoed Terry's point that it was the defensive end that got the Broncos rolling.

"We definitely wanted our team to hustle more," said Gardner, who finished with game highs of 14 points, 17 rebounds and five steals. "That's something we really needed to work on -- getting on the floor and going hard on defense. And I feel like we did well with that (Wednesday) night.

"A lot of us were off because of the Christmas break and eating all that food. But I think once we got the hang of the game, got the feel of it, we definitely picked it up."

The Brookwood offense also began to pick up from that midway point of the second quarter on, as the Broncos added on the final eight points of the second quarter with the first seven of the third quarter as part of a 10-2 advantage the left them with a 27-20 lead by the end of the period.

And after Chattahoochee twice cut the lead to as little as five points early in the fourth quarter, Nicole Plaisted scored with a drive along the baseline with 5:34 to play, and the Broncos never allowed the Cougars any closer the rest of the game.

Plaisted (six points, eight rebounds) was just one of several Broncos besides Gardner to step up their game Wednesday.

Rebecca Walker added six points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals before fouling out, while Allia Jackson added seven points and four steals, and Courtney Erickson (four points, two assists) gave quality minutes off the bench.

Katie Upchurch and Sara Kinkelaar led Chattahoochee with eight points apiece, while Morrow added seven points and nine boards.