The postseason is here in high school basketball, and for the McDowell Lady Titans, it’s a chance to focus on trying to win a conference tournament championship.
That focus was spot-on Tuesday night as the Lady Titans efficiently handled the South Caldwell Spartans 60-38 at Titan Gymnasium in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Tuesday’s win for No. 3 seed McDowell (16-9) sets up a third encounter with second-seeded Freedom in the Lady Patriots’ home gym Thursday afternoon (5:30 p.m.) in the conference tournament semifinals. The Lady Patriots also handled business on Tuesday, dismantling St. Stephens 66-38 at home.
The two met last Friday in the regular-season finale, with Freedom taking a 50-40 victory in Morganton.
However, the task at hand Tuesday for the Lady Titans was taking care of business against a South Caldwell squad (9-15) that played McDowell tough in a matchup in Sawmills two weeks ago in a low-scoring, 35-31 MHS win.
Fortunately, the Lady Titans played more to their style on the home court.
A close 15-10 margin after one quarter quickly erupted into an 18-point lead for McDowell by the half as the Lady Titans outscored the opposition 18-4.
And then, five consecutive points out of the halftime break pushed the margin past the 20-point plateau and McDowell never looked back after that point.
The team as a unit provided a balanced effort with 11 Lady Titans scoring in the contest. That plus a 39-28 rebounding advantage were keys in the success on the floor.
“This was really a good team effort put together,” said Lady Titans head coach Jennifer Kinninger. “Everybody contributed in some way. We knew that South Caldwell was going to be a challenge for us in how they like to play.
“Our keys going in were to take care of the basketball, better shot selections from the last time we played them, and controlling the boards, and I feel that we did a good job in all three.”
McDowell’s second quarter surge began with a rebound and put-back by Lily McKinney. Then, Dezi Williams drained a 3-pointer off a Makayla Brewer assist with 5:59 left in the half, increasing the lead to 20-10.
In that second quarter, the Lady Titans made four 3-pointers, including a long-range bomb by Zoe Miller with 16 seconds left, giving McDowell its biggest lead of the night at 33-14.
That shot carried over into the second half.
Hayley Creasman drained a 3 from the left wing on the opening possession, and then Williams, after being fouled on a transition layup attempt, sank a pair of free throws with 7:02 left in the third, giving McDowell a 38-14 advantage and essentially putting the game away.
South wasn’t able to get any closer than 24 points until the final stages of the game after everything had been decided.
Creasman (4 rebounds, 3 assists) was the lone McDowell player in double figures with 11 points. Williams (5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) and Miller added nine points each. Brewer (7 rebounds, 3 assists) finished with eight points and Cooper (4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal) had seven points.
McKinney (4 rebounds, 2 blocks) netted five points and Emma Banks (6 rebounds) along with Taylor Buchanan, Kendell Brooks, Megan Zullo and Makenna Parkins, finished with two points apiece.
South Caldwell freshman guard Katelyn Propst scored a team-high 16 points.
Northwestern 3A/4A Conference basketball 2017-18
Watauga 13-1 20-3
Freedom 13-1 20-4
McDowell 9-5 16-9
Hickory 7-7 13-10
St. Stephens 7-7 15-10
South Caldwell 5-9 9-15
Alexander Central 2-12 4-20
West Caldwell 0-13 5-19
(3) McDowell 60, (6) South Caldwell 38
(1) Watauga 62, (8) West Caldwell 32
(2) Freedom 66, (7) Alexander Central 38
(4) Hickory 42, (5) St. Stephens 32
Watauga vs. Hickory (4 p.m.)
Freedom vs. McDowell (5:30)
Semifinal winners (6:30)