Athens Drive and Green Hope split a pair of Southwest Wake Athletic Conference regular season games, but the matchup in the first round of the NCHSAA 4A girls tournament was no contest, as the Jaguars ran away from the visiting Falcons, 72-27.
Athens, conference champs and the No. 6 seed in the East, is now 20-5 and will host New Hanover in the second round Monday.
Green Hope (13-9) had to play without sophomore point guard Kelly Fitzgerald, who averaged 16 points and five assists per game. She was sick and was not with the team Saturday.
“We didn’t know Kelly wasn’t playing until just before the game,” said Athens senior Grace Hunter, who scored 29, one point under her average. “We actually had a practice Saturday morning and planned to play a diamond-and-one defense on her. She’s a really good player. “
Hunter, who will play at Charlotte next year, and fellow senior Brinae Thornton (18) led the Jags to a 10-1 lead early and 18-4 after the first quarter.
“We played well and distributed the ball,” Athens coach Dayna Jordan said. “Grace not only scored her points but also did a great job getting the ball to her teammates. Brinae played well also.”
Hunter is hoping Saturday’s win leads to others.
“We’ve got four seniors and we’re all determined to go as far as we can in the playoffs,” Hunter said. “Winning the conference has given us the confidence we need.”
Allie Winiecki led Green Hope with 14 points.
“We knew this was definitely going to be a tough game, especially without Kelly, but also we didn’t seem ready to go today,” Green Hope coach John D’Agostin said. “Athens can be a tough match for other teams in the playoffs. Grace is so talented, and Brinae has a good outside shot. Plus they have a group of seniors with something to play for.”