Midtown: Sports

Athens Drive girls rally to beat Holly Springs basketball

Nothing was quite what it was supposed to be on Tuesday night.

The Triangle’s leading scorer, Athens Drive’s Grace Hunter, missed almost the entire game. One of the Triangle’s best girls basketball teams, Holly Springs, missed 40 shots in a single half. Two girls hit 20 points – a feat neither had done all season long.

It was different and it was weird, but the ending was still dramatic. Athens Drive sprinted past Southwest Wake Athletic Conference foe Holly Springs 56-53 by scoring 13 of the game’s final 17 points.

Out of bounds: Hunter sat out the first quarter because she had missed a practice, coach Dayna Jordan said. Hunter then picked up four fouls, including a technical, in the second quarter. That kept her on the bench for most of the third quarter, but she never picked up a fifth and final foul.

“She was so excited when she got out there I think she got in foul trouble right away and so we had to hold her out almost the entire third quarter,” Jordan said. “When she got out there, she took control, showed leadership.”

What worked: After watching a 20-19 halftime lead turn into a seven-point deficit with just about four minutes left in the game, Athens Drive (14-5, 7-2) started trapping more. Holly Springs (14-4, 7-2) didn’t react well, and the Jaguars were right back in the game, pulling ahead 52-49 on a 9-0 run.

Needs improvement: Holly Springs got plenty of shots, but those shots didn’t fall, especially early in the game. The Golden Hawks were a brutal 6 of 46 (13 percent) in the first half.

“We just couldn’t make a layup in the beginning, and at the end, when we needed those points, we didn’t have them. Layups are crucial. I tell them that,” Holly Springs coach Peace Easton said.

Putting up numbers: Athens Drive’s Brinae Thornton scored more than double her season average (9.6 ppg) with a game-high 20 points. The guard, who was once a post player, was 12 of 13 from the free throw line, hit two 3-pointers including a four-point play and collected 11 rebounds.

She was also the first player to hit the floor for a loose ball on several occasions.

“I just played as aggressively as I can,” Thornton said. “This was one of our most important games.”

Hunter had 15 for the Jags while Gabby Respess added eight.

Holly Springs’ Vielka Barber had 20 points off the bench, including 17 of her team’s 21 third-quarter points.

“Vielka did what she was supposed to do. She came off the bench, she gave us that fire that we needed, she gave us those points but we just didn’t have help for her when we needed it,” Easton said.

Hawks teammates Brianna Tate had 12 and Caila Spruill had 10.

Unsung hero: When Athens Drive went to a box-and-one defense, Danielle Randolph shadowed Tate. She also brought down eight rebounds, had four steals and four assists.

Feeling the impact: A wild sequence of events led to a four-way tie atop the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference in girls basketball after Tuesday’s games.

Apex was stunned by Fuquay-Varina, 32-29, and Green Hope defeated Middle Creek 49-39.

Apex, Green Hope, Athens Drive and Holly Springs all have 7-2 SWAC records.