Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood's Courtney Gardner (24) is fouled by North Cobb's Taylor Gordon (10) during the second period of a semifinal game in the Deep South Classic basketball tournament played Thursday at Brookwood High School.
SNELLVILLE -- The Deep South Classic will have a new girls champion this year, and it will come from powerful Region 4-AAAAA.
Brookwood's hopes of repeating ended Thursday night with a 64-53 loss to sixth-ranked North Cobb, which will play region rival Hillgrove in today's 6 p.m. title game. Though the host Broncos lost, girls coach Scott Terry was far from discouraged.
"I told the kids I hate to lose, probably more than most, but I'm not sure in 23 years of coaching I've ever been more pleased with a team's effort in a loss," Terry said. "(North Cobb's) got a good ball club. I was proud of all the kids. We didn't back down from them. We were aggressive on offense and aggressive on defense."
Taller and more athletic, North Cobb (9-3) took charge early against a Brookwood team that lost most of its experience from last season's Region 8-AAAAA championship team to graduation. The Broncos fell behind 20-4 in the first quarter before a Rebecca Walker 3-pointer stopped the skid.
North Cobb led by as many as 22 in the third quarter and by 21 as the midway point of the third quarter neared. That's when the Broncos (6-7), who play Northview today at 3 p.m. for third place, made their charge.
Walker scored seven points during a 12-0 run that trimmed the lead to single digits on a pair of occasions, getting as close as 54-47 with 1:26 left.
Terry admitted he was shocked at his team's finish.
"It was an 18- to 20-point game and all of sudden it's down to single digits with two minutes left," the coach said. "The kids just kept fighting."
Brookwood never got closer than seven the rest of the way, but their performance was a positive sign for an inexperienced team.
Walker had a game-high 25 points along with five rebounds and five blocked shots, and Courtney Gardner had 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. The duo combined for 11 field goals while the rest of the team managed only four.
Defensive rebounding and turnovers (19 through the first three quarters) were the Broncos' undoing. In three quarters, North Cobb had attempted 57 field goals to Brookwood's 24, which was the result of getting multiple shots on numerous offensive possessions.
While that could improve, Terry embraced the positives of the semifinal loss. The intensity was good for a team that is off to a 4-1 start in 8-AAAAA play.
"We have eight seniors, but we're young in experience," Terry said. "We don't have a lot of experience out there."
North Cobb, which got 15 points from Amber Reeves, moves on to play 4-AAAAA rival Hillgrove for the Deep South title. Fifth-ranked Hillgrove defeated Northview 62-42 in Thursday's other girls semifinal, getting 22 points from Celina Rodrigo.