HOLLY SPRINGS — It was as much as Green Hope senior Ashley Williams had celebrated a win in years. She dribbled out the clock and flung the ball into the air, screaming and jumping as she met her teammates and coaches.
After two overtimes, Green Hope ranked third in the N&O area defeated fifth-ranked Holly Springs 53-49 Thursday night.
The Falcons (17-1, 11-0) have never lost to a Tri-9 Conference opponent a streak of 69 games including conference and state tournaments since Williams stepped on campus. On Thursday, they were as tested as they have ever been.
At times, the Holly Springs gym was deafening. It crescendoed at clutch moments by the host Golden Hawks (17-2, 10-2), like a Linnea Hoops 3-pointer to go up three with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left in regulation or a made second free throw by Kiara Leslie to tie it at 45 with 24.2 seconds left.
Youve got to credit Holly Springs. They came to play, and their atmostphere we havent played in anything like that since last years playoffs, Williams said.
Williams had hit the go-ahead floater with 38 seconds left, set up after a timeout coming out of a steal and jump ball forced by Jaria Martin.
The two teams went into the first overtime tied at 45 after the Falcons failed to get a shot off.
The first overtime was a stark contrast in styles, but the same result.
Holly Springs tried to score quickly, but Green Hope held the ball for long periods of time. At the end of five minutes, only the Hawks Hannah Buckley and the Falcons Cassidey Sowards had scored.
They did what they needed to do, said Leslie, who had 25 points. We were trying to go ahead and score, but we probably shouldve held it a little bit longer and got a good shot off.
A missed 3-pointer by Lauren Midgette and a missed full-court heave by Leslie concluded the first overtime with the score 47-47.
The second overtime was decided at the free throw line.
Holly Springs got there first, but missed two.
Williams forced Buckley to foul out, then made two with 2:16 to go. Williams forced a steal on the other end, and then milked the clock to 38 seconds, forcing the Hawks to foul again.
Sowards made two, then Leslie cut the four-point lead in half with a floater in the lane. Green Hopes Midgette hit 1-of-2 with 22.2 seconds left, then Leslie was called for the offensive foul with 17.1 seconds, fouling out.
Midgette hit another free throw, then blocked the Hawks only shot to preserve the four-point victory.
Thats the way its supposed to be. No. 1 versus No. 2 (in the conference) it was a dog fight, said Green Hope coach Mike Robinson. Both of them poured their heart out.
The first quarter was ridden with fouls (12) and three of them were on Williams. At halftime, the teams were tied at 21 as Leslie beat the clock on a deep 3-pointer
Green Hope found success in the first half on back door cuts. Holly Springs didnt have its outside shot working, missing its first 9-of-10 3s before Leslies shot. But the Hawks were strong on the glass and limited Green Hope possessions with turnovers
Holly Springs had the largest lead for either side in the late third quarter when up 30-24, but Green Hope hit three of their next four shots to cut it to a 34-32 deficit going into the fourth.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps