Brookwood girls top South, clinch another state tourney trip

Brookwood's Courtney Gardner

Brookwood's Courtney Gardner

SNELLVILLE --The Brookwood girls missed their first 12 shots of the second quarter, their first 10 of the third and all nine of their attempts in the fourth.

That offensive futility will be forgotten quickly, though.

The Broncos, after watching a game-long lead slip away in regulation, made the key plays in overtime behind Courtney Gardner and defeated South Gwinnett 39-34 in their Region 8-AAAAAA basketball tournament opener. They also secured their eighth state tournament appearance in the last nine years, matching South's defensive intensity with some of their own.

"We hit some big free throws," Brookwood girls coach Scott Terry said. "We were 13 of 15 from the free throw line. The defensive effort was good. That's what this team's been able to hang its hat on this season."

Brookwood (16-10) started the victory by making 5 of 8 shots, building a quick 16-6 lead after a quarter. But it managed only 14 points and 3-for-36 shooting (8.3 percent) over the next three quarters as the host Comets (14-12) began chipping away at the lead.

The Broncos had scoreless stretches of 5 minutes, 52 seconds and 5:20 during the second half and South slowly closed the gap. The Comets scored the last seven points of regulation, tying the game on Jashawna Johnson free throws with 1:02 left.

South had the last chance at a game-winning shot, but Brookwood survived with a revamped lineup after Shelby Hunter and Taryn Dennie fouled out early in the fourth quarter.

"I was just so thankful she didn't make that last shot," Gardner said. "I was relieved that we got to overtime. Once we got to overtime, I knew it was our game."

South's Arielle Harvey scored the first basket of overtime, but the Broncos followed with a 7-0 run that featured three baskets by Gardner, who had game highs of 14 points and 13 rebounds.

"I knew I had to stay positive for my team and keep fighting," Gardner said. "The seniors needed to step up and lead the team."

The Comets got within three points with 19.7 seconds left in overtime, but a pair of free throws by Brookwood's Nija Kurien with 12.7 seconds left sealed the win. While the field goals weren't falling, the Broncos made 10 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter and OT.

Most importantly, they refocused after losing the lead in regulation.

"I think it's a testament to their maturity and to their will power," Terry said of overtime. "I've been very proud of our four seniors (Gardner, Rebecca Walker, Kurien and Hunter) this year and the leadership they've shown on and off the floor. We lost eight kids off the team last year and had so many new kids and young kids, and they looked to those four seniors for their leadership."

Walker had nine points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots for the Broncos, who now play Parkview at 7 p.m. Friday in the semifinals at South. Dennie added eight points and seven rebounds off the bench and Taiylor Rinehart had six rebounds.

Harvey (12 points, 13 rebounds), Colette Onenda (12 points), Johnson (10 points) and Taylor Harris (eight rebounds) led the Comets.