Strong defense late, clutch free-throws lead Lady Red Devils to 58-55 OT win over East Burke in 2A West quarterfinals on Tuesday

The Lady Red Devils' varsity basketball team overjoyed as it defeated East Burke in overtime, 58-55, at East Burke High School on Tuesday, March 3. With the 2A West quarterfinal win, it advances to Saturday's NCHSAA 2A West Regional. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Red Devils' senior center Chyna Cornwell (54) going for one of her five blocks on the night against East Burke. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Red Devils' senior guard/forward Jahlea Peters (30) running after the ball in Tuesday's narrow victory over the Lady Cavaliers. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Red Devils' senior guard Mackenzie Johnson (22) talking to Jaelyn Hayes (40) on the bench of Tuesday's contest. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Red Devils’ senior point guard Aaliah Walton (14) with the game-tying layup to send the 2A West quarterfinal match-up with East Burke into overtime at 47-all. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)Lady Red Devils' junior forward Grace Loftin (33) came up big at the charity stripe for the third-straight game as she put her team ahead, 54-50, in OT on Tuesday night. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

Another NCHSAA state playoff basketball classic was in the books on Tuesday night at East Burke High School as the No. 3-seeded Newton-Conover Lady Red Devils battled No. 2-seed East Burke.

In an electric atmosphere, the showdown between the South Fork 2A Conference champ and the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference champ did not disappoint.

It was a tug-of-war finish that saw its conclusion take place in overtime as the Lady Red Devils (27-2) managed to pull away, 58-55.

The first half was close, but the second half was even closer. The Lady Cavaliers (27-4) held its position early as it led, 16-8, heading into the second quarter led by All-Conference forward Riley Haas.

Haas accumulated 11 of the team's first-quarter points. On the opposing side, it was an even distribution of scoring as senior center Chyna Cornwell, senior guard Aaliah Walton, junior forward Grace Loftin and freshman point guard Cassidy Geddes each scored two points in the frame.

In the second quarter, it was a battle of Cornwell and Haas as both played tit-for-tat with East Burke getting the 26-23 edge entering the break. Cornwell scored nine of her 11 first-half points in the quarter, in addition to seven rebounds, a block and a steal.

While, Haas countered with four points in the frame and 15 first-half points – including a trio of threes. She would be the difference-maker down the stretch of this contest as would Walton, Loftin, Cornwell and senior guard/forward Jahlea Peters for the Lady Red Devils.

In the second half, things were a stalemate in the third quarter as the two teams tied at 32-all heading into the fourth quarter.

Trailing 32-30 with under 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Cornwell corralled the rebound on an East Burke miss and ran the floor on a fast-break play only to dish it off to Loftin for the timely game-tying lay-in.

That would be one of two fast-break passes Cornwell made in the frame to Loftin, and she finished with three assists in the game.

In the fourth quarter, the battle between All-Conference stars Cornwell and Haas continued to unfold. Haas was a woman on a mission, as well, as she demonstrated her ability to not only hit threes but get to the foul line.

Cornwell and Haas both garnered a game-high 28 points. While, Cornwell collected 25 rebounds (13 offensive), three assists, five blocks and four steals. Haas also finished with nine boards and two steals.

After missing her first two attempts in the first half, Haas connected on eight-straight free-throws, four of which came in OT.

With the game tied at 36-all with 5:37 remaining in regulation, Haas' play was big as she connected on a pair of free-throws, along with a heavily contested knock-down three-pointer to give the Lady Cavs the 43-42 lead that forced a Newton-Conover timeout.

It was a battle of will late in the quarter and East Burke earned the edge, 47-45, with 10.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Nevertheless, on the ensuing possession, Walton was primed for position in warrior-mode as she drove to the paint and converted on a huge layup to tie the game at 47-all and send it into OT much to the acclaim of the fans and her team.

Entering the extra period on such a high, the Lady Red Devils carried that momentum and late in the frame were cooking with gas. The Lady Red Devils scored four straight points led by Loftin, leading 51-47 with 2:12 left in the game.

However, Haas continued her great work at the charity stripe and cut the Lady Red Devils' lead to just two, 51-49, with about two minutes left in the overtime period.

Peters was an unsung hero late as she connected on 3-of-4 at the free-throw line, as did Cornwell as she finished 3-of-4 in OT (8-of-10 overall).

Loftin also hit a pair of free-throws late in the period to give her team the lead, 54-50, at the time. Loftin finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and an assist.

Despite giving up a wide-open three-pointer to Lady Cavs' guard Gracie Ruff to cut the lead to three, 58-55, timely defensive strongholds by Cornwell, as well as the combo of Loftin and forward Nalece Duncan sealed the victory.

The Lady Red Devils head to the 2A West Regional match-up this Saturday with the winner of No. 1-seed Salisbury and No. 4-seed Forbush set for a noon tip-off at CVCC's Tarlton Complex in Hickory.



NCHS – 8 15 9 15 11 = 58

EBHS – 16 10 6 15 8 = 55

NCHS: Cornwell 28, Loftin 13, Peters 5, Walton 10, Geddes 2

EBHS: A. Griggs 6, Gracie Ruff 6, Z. Smith 6, Riley Haas 28, Graleigh Hildebran 6, Allie Cooke 1, Ashlyn Stilwell 1

Notes: Geddes also earned five rebounds, four assists and a steal. Walton connected on the Lady Red Devils only two three-pointers...The Lady Red Devils are on a 19-game win streak.