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No. 1 Northview escapes Towne Lake with season-opening win over scrappy Wolverines

No. 1 Northview 61, Woodstock 51

The Class AAAAAA No. 1 ranked Northview Lady Titans hit the road to visit a new-look Woodstock Wolverines team with Jared Hughes at the helm, his first official game on the sidelines after coming over from Rome to replace long-time head coach Julie Crowe. Last season it was the Titans who hosted the Wolverines to open the year with Northview scoring a dominant 57-44 victory. The tables were nearly turned on Tuesday as Woodstock pushed the Titans to the limit before falling 61-51.

Arriving just 15 minutes before game-time after an hour and 45-minute commute, Northview opened up slow with fouls piling up. Starting point guard Asjah Inniss was ushered to the bench with two fouls in just a minute and 50 seconds, immediately testing Northview’s depth.

The Titans managed to push the lead to 10-4, but at the 3:46 mark, it was Maya Richards’ turn to pick up her second foul and head to the bench. With two key cogs on Coach Chris Yarbrough’s bench, the Wolverines made their move. Freshman point guard Kayden Montgomery sparked a 7-0 run to take an 11-10 lead, hustling to earn second-chance points by hitting the glass and deflecting an assist to physical post Ivana George, who scored all six of her points in the first half.

In search of a basket to stem the tide, Coach Yarbrough knew to punch it inside to All-State forward Ashlee Austin.

Woodstock had opportunities to take a lead heading into the second quarter but three turnovers in near succession held the score at 13-13 after one. Highly touted freshman combo guard Eden Sample carried the offensive burden in the first quarter with Inniss and Richards sidelined and the Titans already with nine team fouls. The smooth shooter scored six points and netted 12 of her team-high 16 in the first half.

Playing with two fouls, Inniss reentered to start the second quarter and ignited the Titans. A quick steal led to an And-1 and before long Northview found itself leading 22-14 with 5:37 left to play, a 9-1 run.

Coach Hughes’ Wolverines settled down and cut the lead to 27-22, George and Montgomery working an inside-out game. On the other side, Austin continued to pound away inside. She went 5-of-6 from the line and finished the night with 16 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.

Down 10 with seconds remaining, Montgomery banked in a three at the buzzer to keep the Wolverines in striking distance heading into the half down 34-27.

Northview came out of the locker room with something to prove in the second half. Clamping on a diamond press, the Titans ripped off a 13-0 run to put the Wolverines on the ropes, now down 20 at 47-27 less than three minutes into the third.

Just a few more baskets away from Goliath landing the knockout punch to David, the underdogs found their stone in the form of 5-foot-11 sophomore Sophia Singer. After scoring just four points in the first half, the potential laced wing poured in 10 of Woodstock’s 11 points in the frame including back-to-back threes to put the Wolverines’ upset bid back on life support, heading into the fourth quarter down 54-38.

The Singer onslaught continued in the final frame as Woodstock sparked a 7-0 run to bring the score to 54-45. The closest the Wolverines would draw would be at the 4:06 mark after Singer put in two of her game-high 21 points off an offensive rebound to make the score 55-48.

From that point on, the Titans finally got a hold of Singer and contained her to one point the rest of the way and was able to nurse a healthy 8-to-10-point lead to the finish line. Northview scored all their fourth quarter points from the charity stripe, going 7-of-10.

My Take

It wasn’t the prettiest way to start the season – a foul fest – but No. 1 Northview was able to hang on. There looked like upwards of four future D-I players on the court. Ashlee Austin is still the most consistent player for Northview and she will be asked to become even more of a cornerstone now that Shannon Titus is at Mercer. The 2019 6-foot-2 forward crashed the glass hard as always and looked even better on the perimeter than last year, comfortable going between her legs and off the dribble to create for shooters in the corner. In due time, I’d like to see her finish those drives through defenders instead of kicking out, but she did a good job of not forcing any bad shots. As good as Austin was, Asjah Inniss was the energizer bunny and the straw that stirred the drink for Northview. The quick and wiry sophomore looked like the game slowed down for her after she tended to play a little too fast as a freshman. Inniss has great hands on the perimeter and can get to a ton of 50/50 balls. Her 13 points and nine steals were a major difference maker. The Titans didn’t function nearly as well on both sides of the ball while she was in foul trouble. Freshman Eden Sample has a pretty stroke and good body control when she finds herself on the low block. She’s able to finish through contact. She stepped up big time with Inniss on the bench and will be counted on to stretch defenses. She has a bright next four years. An unsung hero was undersized senior post Camil Butler. She saw sporadic minutes last season but had to play a big role right away with Maya Richards on the bench. She finished with five points (5-of-6 FT), three rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks. She was automatic from the foul line and very composed when she found the ball in her hands. Great lift off the bench.

Woodstock is young and a little banged up, especially at the guard position. That did not stop Jared Hughes’ team from competing the entire 32 minutes. Down 20 points to the No. 1 team in the state, the Wolverines could have easily laid over and took a 30-point loss, but instead they battled and found a new go-to girl in Sophia Singer. After seeing Singer last season as a freshman, you could tell there was potential there. The daughter of Western Illinois football hall of fame quarterback Paul Singer, Sophia stands close to 6-foot tall with an agile frame and long wingspan. She long jumps 17.5 and runs the 200M, so the athleticism to go with her height is definitely apparent. She broke out last night and started to let it fly after a timid first half. When aggressive, Singer can score in the paint, mid-range and knock down the corner three. If she can stay aggressive on offense, she could be just what Coach Hughes needs to push the Wolverines back into the playoffs. She also mixed it up on defense, picking up a nice block on Austin inside and spent the fourth quarter defending Inniss up top, showcasing her ability to guard multiple positions. Aside from Singer’s big performance, freshman Kayden Montgomery played a nice floor game. Not blessed with the size or speed of her opposition, Montgomery was deceptively mobile and used her IQ to craft her way into making plays. She drained two threes and dished out five assists in her first varsity start. She will be thrown into the fire as a youngster and should come out better for it once her career is said and done.

Top Performers

Northview
Ashlee Austin – 16 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, 1 block
Eden Sample – 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Asjah Inniss – 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 9 steals
Maya Richards – 7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block

Woodstock
Sophia Singer – 21 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
Kayden Montgomery – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Bree Burnett – 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal

No. 1 Westlake impresses in preseason romp of Fayette County

No. 1 Westlake 66, Fayette County 42

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)

FAYETTEVILLE, Georgia.  The top-ranked Westlake Lady Lions opened the 2017/2018 basketball season with a scrimmage on the road against the Fayette County Tigers Wednesday night. Westlake has been to the Elite 8 three years in a row, but with the talent, depth and the top ranking, this season they want more. Coach Hilda Hankerson said, “Our ladies are excited about the #1 ranking, they are ready to compete.” The Lady Lions took that first step with a convincing 66-42 win over a very good Fayette County team.

Coach Hankerson has a powerhouse lineup with three pre-season Class AAAAAAA All-State players in Texas Tech signee Taylor Hosendove, Simone Lett and Shekinah Howard to go along with All-Region guard Anastasia Warren, Carlyse Hooks and Paris Mullins. To compliment their veteran roster are two impressive freshman as well, Raven Johnson and Brianna Turnage who will be making noise in the seasons ahead.

The game was tied at 6  at the four minute mark when the Lady Lions unleashed a suffocating full court pressure defense and quickly went on a 17-0 that put things away early. It did not help that Lady Tiger leader and three-point sharp shooter Rikkelle Miller got in foul trouble immediately and missed most of the first half. With Warren putting constant pressure on the ball, Fayette County struggled to put together scoring possessions.

The Lady Tigers found some answers after halftime and with Miller connecting on several 3s, the Lady Tigers were much more composed against the constant pressure and held their own. But Coach Hankerson was rolling fresh players constantly into the game. With their depth (Coach Hankerson has 15 players and they all look like they could start), they are equipped for a season that will see fatigue and foul troubles at some point.  Warren led a balanced scoring attack for the Lady Lions with 12 and Hosendove added 11, while Miller lead the Fayette County offense with 10 points.

Afterwards, Hankerson was pleased but saw a lot of work ahead. When asked what they needed to work on after the game, she quipped, “Everything, but especially our rebounding and defensive rotations. Those areas were not where they needed to be. We have a lot of potential, but right now, we have a lot of things to work on.”

This is going to be a fun season to watch for Westlake. Leadership and the talent to raise the bar from the past three years and complete something special. The Fayette County Tigers will compete for the Region title in 2-AAAAAAA and will look to once again return to the state playoffs.