High School Sports

Class AAAAA state playoffs: Northside loses to Miller Grove

A history-making season came to an end for the Northside High basketball team on Saturday.

After a season of success, it met its match in a 72-38 loss to Miller Grove in the Class AAAAA semifinals at Kennesaw State.

With the loss, Northside’s historic season came to an end. The Patriots (23-5) reached many of the goals they had set coming into the season, but ultimately fell two wins short of a state championship.

Miller Grove advances to the Class AAAAA final, where it will play for its fifth straight state championship against Gainesville on March 8 at the Macon Centreplex.

The trip to the semifinals this season was a culmination of four years of work by a handful of players who struggled as freshmen, made the playoffs for the first time last season and advanced to the semifinals this year.

“I told the guys in the locker room how proud of themselves they should be,” coach Kenneth Lawrence said after the game. “It was a history-making team for this school. They stuck together for years and persevered together. They worked hard, and that’s all I can ask for.”

Throughout the season, the Patriots utilized a combination of their experience and athleticism to cruise to 10 straight wins down the stretch before the loss on Saturday.

It was unable to gain its footing from the outset against Miller Grove, however.

It had a handful of opportunities in the first quarter, but failed to convert on all but one. It made just one shot in the quarter, an acrobatic dunk by senior Tay Sears, and fell behind the Wolverines 10-2.

Sears’ dunk was a rare highlight, as he took the ball coast to coast and elevated over a single defender to put down a two-handed slam.

“We rushed a lot of shot attempts,” Lawrence said. “It’s a credit to them, though. I told their coach they had an excellent team. They’ve been here before, and it showed.”

A switch turned briefly in the second quarter for Northside when it streaked out to a 9-0 run that cut the Miller Grove lead briefly to two points at 15-13.

Elijah Vincent began the run with a drive to the basket that resulted in a bucket and a foul. He converted the three-point play and was quickly followed by a jumper from R.J. Sessions. Sears hit a pair of free throws and Jaylen Brewster put in a basket to make it nine points in one minute, 20 seconds.

A technical foul on Northside, which Lawrence said he wasn’t exactly clear on, seemed to halt the momentum, however. The Patriots were unable to sustain the dominant play and Miller Grove closed the half on a 13-1 run to jump back out in front by a 15-point margin.

“I don’t know what it was for, but we definitely lost some momentum,” Lawrence said.

Northside was unable to make a charge out of the break to give itself a chance of the comeback. Miller Grove scored 10 consecutive points, giving itself an insurmountable 42-17 lead with three minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Miller Grove’s Earl Bryant controlled the game early, scoring 13 of his 14 points in the first half to lead the Wolverines. He caused problems for the Patriots in a number of ways, scoring on fast breaks, hard drives to the basket and one 3-pointer from the corner that ended the first half.

“I thought maybe we gave them a little too much respect,” Lawrence said. “It wasn’t our normal defense.”

Keith Pickney ended up as Miller Grove’s leading scorer with 18 points.

Sessions and Davion Thomas led Northside with seven points apiece. Sears finished the game with six.

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

Saturday at Kennesaw State

Miller Grove 10 20 17 25—72

Northside 2 13 9 14—38

Miller Grove (72)

Pickney 18, Bryant 14, Hamer 12, Walker 12, Gilbert 7, Williams 4, Richards 3, Boykins 2.

Northside (38)

Sessions 7, Thomas 7, Sears 6, Beverly 5, Westbrook 5, Floyd 4, Vincent 2, Brewster 2.

Records: Miller Grove, 29-3; Northside, 23-5. Next: Miller Grove, vs. Gainesville in Class AAAAA final; Northside, season over.