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Heartrending ending for Broncos

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips<br> Brookwood's Christina Paul (3) tries to score as she is fouled by Northview's Alexis Neskonis (20) on Friday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Brookwood's Christina Paul (3) tries to score as she is fouled by Northview's Alexis Neskonis (20) on Friday.

SNELLVILLE — The door to Brookwood’s girls locker room stayed shut for nearly 30 minutes after Friday’s first round of the Class AAAAA girls basketball tournament before teary-eyed head coach Scott Terry finally made it out.

The gym lights were already off, but every player was still inside after an emotional farewell to what had been one of the best seasons in school history. Terry called it the hardest post-game scene he’s ever encountered, and not necessarily because his third-ranked Broncos were upset 84-64 by Northview.

This year’s senior group, once six strong, was short one member. Amanda Riley passed away last April after a long battle with cancer, and the Broncos set out to honor her with their 2010-11 season.

They did that with a 25-3 record, a Region 8-AAAAA tournament title and a Deep South Classic championship. But Friday’s loss also brought a tough reality. The seniors could no longer wear the “AR” patch on their game uniform, or Riley’s No. 22 on their warm-up shirts.

“I’ve been coaching basketball for 22 years and I’ve never enjoyed coaching a group more than I have them,” Terry said. “I don’t have a daughter, I have a son, but those 13 kids are like daughters to me. Those kids have been through more than a high school kid should ever have to go through. And they handled it with grace, maturity and love. They’ve had to deal with a lot worse than this. This is just basketball.”

Brookwood’s dream season looked like it would keep going, despite an avalanche of points from Northview’s Sydney Wallace, a Georgia Tech signee who scored 37.

Turnovers plagued the hosts — they had 20 through three quarters — but they led 40-37 at halftime and trailed by only a point in the waning seconds of the third quarter. But Wallace buried a 3-pointer, part of a 4-for-6 night for her from long range, with six seconds left and Kayla Dozier’s steal and bucket off the inbounds pass put Brookwood in a 61-55 deficit.

The momentum continued as the Titans (18-10) scored eight of the first 10 points of the fourth quarter, opening up an insurmountable lead.

Bronco senior Autumn Adams (15 points, 13 rebounds) fought her hardest to keep her team in the game, scoring seven of Brookwood’s nine fourth-quarter points. She made 3 of 4 shots in the fourth, but her teammates were 1-for-10.

“(Adams) has played well these last couple of weeks,” Terry said. “She really has stepped up her game.”

Fellow senior Katie Mallow led the Broncos with 18 points along with six rebounds. She also had the longest duty of chasing Wallace all over the court. She shared it with senior teammate Jazmine Jackson, who finished with 13 points, seven steals and five assists.

“The Wallace kid, she’s phenomenal,” Terry said. “The thing is, I felt like we defended her pretty well.”

Rebecca Walker was plagued by foul trouble, sitting out most of the second quarter, but still had six points, four rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots. Fellow sophomore Courtney Gardner added eight points off the bench.

Both of those players will be back next season. But for Brookwood’s senior group, which also included Christina Paul and Savannah Leggett, Friday was their last time to play for a fallen teammate.

“I know they’re proud of the region championship and proud of the Deep South (title),” Terry said. “But the thing I’m most proud of is the honor they brought to Amanda.”