Pelham cruises to win over Northridge to return to Sweet 16

Published 9:38 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PELHAM – The Pelham Panthers have made a habit of playing their best basketball come February, and for the fourth straight season, that effort has led to a trip to the Sweet 16.

Pelham dominated on both ends of the floor for a 54-27 win over the Northridge Jaguars on Friday, Feb. 9 at Pelham High School in the Class 6A girls basketball sub-regionals.

Northridge threatened just once throughout the game as Pelham controlled the first half and used a massive 24-point third quarter to pull away for the commanding win and cut down the nets on their home court once again.

“I’m extremely proud of this group,” Pelham coach Crosby Morrison said. “Our record doesn’t look good on paper, but we’ve faced a really, really tough schedule, and it’s paying off right now on postseason. That’s where we just trying to teach our kids, every practice and every game, we’ve just got to get better.”

After a scoreless opening minute-and-a-half of the game, Pelham struck first with a Karma Wynn layup, and it quickly scored the first six points of the game to force a Jags timeout.

That was just the start of an 11-2 run during the first four minutes of the game that set the tone for much of the contest.

However, Northridge briefly threatened to tie up the game after scoring five straight points to cut the Panthers lead to 11-7.

During that stretch, Wynn went down hard and briefly went out of the game before returning in the second quarter.

Alayna Noble scored for Pelham to close out the first and secure a 15-9 lead for her team at the end of the quarter.

While the second quarter was lower-scoring for both teams, the Panthers overcame Northridge’s defense to extend their lead.

Ally Barfield hit a pair of big baskets down the stretch in the second and took the Pelham lead to double-digits before halftime.

That helped the Panthers win the quarter and lead 24-14 as the teams went into the locker room.

While Pelham already had a commanding lead at the start of the second half, that wasn’t the end of the offense as it came out of halftime with one of its most dominant quarters of the season.

The teams were tightly matched in the first three minutes of the third, but after that, the Panthers closed the quarter on a 15-4 run in the last five minutes of the quarter.

Wynn scored six straight points for Pelham before King took over the offense to cap off her 11-point quarter.

The strong guard play from the Panthers combined with a potent defense to score 24 points in the third, which doubled their total points in the game.

With a commanding 48-23 lead going into the fourth, Pelham fought to add to that lead in the first part of the final quarter thanks to two baskets from King and one more layup from Wynn.

The Panthers took their key players out after a hard-fought effort and cruised to the 27-point victory to advance to regionals.

The win continued a theme for Pelham of pulling away in the second half. Morrison credited that to the players for helping motivate themselves to come out of the locker room strong.

“We’ve got great leadership,” Morrison said. “Before we go into halftime, we let them talk to each other and they fix their issues culture-wise, and we come in and fix the X’s and O’s, and it seemed to pay off. We come out strong each third quarter.”

Wynn had 12 points in the game despite playing hurt for much of the contest, and she didn’t come out until the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand. Morrison was proud of her senior guard for persevering through the pain and helping her team cut down the nets.

“This program means more to her than a lot of people can ever even think of,” Morrison said. “She plays for her teammates and they play for her, and it shows. I’m super proud of how she led tonight.”

King led the way for Pelham with a game-high 19 points. Barfield scored eight points, Shea Gallagher had six points, Gerren Ingram added five points and Noble had four points in a team-effort for the Panthers.

“We did a fantastic job guarding their best players,” Morrison said. “It took everybody. They tried to take Tee away, and we had some freshmen come in, make some big shots for us, so it took every single person to win this ball game.”