Teams in this post:

Ashville falls to Holly Pond in regional final


Coach Dale Beason and the Ashville Bulldogs lost to Holly Pond 55-39 in the Northeast Region final in Jacksonville on Saturday. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times | File)


JACKSONVILLE — Umbrellas could not help the Ashville girls high school basketball team Saturday during a downpour inside Pete Mathews Coliseum.

The roof didn’t leak and cause a game delay. Rather, 3-pointers rained down from the hot shooting hands of Holly Pond. Shots from behind the arc kept falling on the Bulldogs and spurred the Broncos to a 55-39 win over eighth-ranked Ashville in the Northeast Regional championship game.

The Class 3A, seventh-ranked Broncos rode the uncharacteristically strong effort from behind the 3-point line to its victory over No. 8 Ashville in just its second appearance in Jacksonville. In 2010, Holly Pond won the regional and lost to Sumter County in the state semifinals.

“It feels amazing,” Holly Pond’s Natasha Holcombe said. “It’s what we’ve been working for.”

The Broncos were shooting just 27 percent from behind the arc coming into the game. When the game tipped off, though, you wouldn’t have known it. They went 10 for 25 in the game on 3-pointers, a 40 percent clip.

“They had an incredible day shooting the three,” Ashville coach Dale Beason said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

A trio of those 3-pointers came in the second quarter, when the Broncos (29-5) pushed their lead to double digits, where it remained for the majority of the second half.

“This was the best game this team has played all year,” Holly Pond coach Scott Adams said. “This was our best 3-point shooting game of the year. We had to have it because points in the paint are hard to come by against Ashville.”

The Broncos managed to do all right inside too, however, thanks in part to tourament MVP Taylor Terry, who led all players with 14 points.

“My teammates got me the ball inside, it was all them,” Terry said.

At 5-foot-10, Terry is one of seven players for Holly Pond who stand at least 5-foot-8, compared to five for the Bulldogs.

“They probably did a better job with our size than we did with theirs,” Beason said.

“She was strong, she was good,” Ashville’s 6-foot forward Autumn Swearengin said of Terry.

Ashville (28-5) was seeking its first regional title in its eighth appearance. The Bulldogs are 2-8 at the regional tournament.

“All I can say about my team is good things,” Beason said. “This was just one day. This was the best team, as far as being a team, that I have coached. No fighting, no jealousy. They made basketball fun for me again.”

Ashville opened the game strong, leading 7-2, before Holcombe began the barrage of treys for Holly Pond at the 3:50 mark left in the first quarter. She added another one with 2:15 remaining in the period to stake the Broncos to a 10-7 lead, one they never relinquished.

“We were in it, playing our game, then the three’s started falling,” Beason said. “They seized the momentum. I have to give them credit. They made their three’s; we didn’t make buckets on the other end. They got us back on our heels.”

Holly Pond established its dominance in the second quarter. Leading 13-10 after one quarter, the Broncos forced five turnovers and allowed Ashville to hit just one of eight shots in the final eight minutes before the break. A 3-pointer by Taylor Rowell with 10 seconds showing extended the Holly Pond lead to 25-14 at halftime.

“We didn’t do a good job of attacking the basket,” Beason said. Six of the Bulldogs’ eight second-quarter shot attempts came on jumpers or 3-pointers. The one made field goal was a layup by Lakeivia Looney, who finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds.

The third quarter opened with the last strong offensive push of the game by Ashville. Swearengin started the quarter with a basket, Looney followed up with a jumper and Swearengin drained a shot to pull the Bulldogs to within 25-20 at the 6:16 mark. Over the next four minutes, though, the Broncos outscored Ashville 12-5 to go ahead 37-25. Looney hit a layup with 55 seconds left in third quarter to make it 37-27 entering the final frame.

The lead shrunk to 40-31 after a jumper by Ashville’s Anika Bothwell with 7:11 to play in the game. The Broncos solidified their hold on the game, though, over the next five minutes. A methodical 9-2 run, with Ashville shooting just 1 of 6 from the field and 0 of 2 from the free-throw line, gave Holly Pond a commanding 49-33 advantage with 2:16 left to all but lock up a trip to Birmingham. During the run, the Broncos hit 3 of 5 field goal attempts and both of their free-throw attempts.

“The ball was not kind to us today,” Beason said.

Swearingin, who joined Looney on the all-tournament team, had 10 points and seven rebounds. Mollie Huff and Bothwell totaled eight and seven points, respectively.

Joining Terry on the all-tournament squad for Holly Pond were Meg Gambrill, who notched 10 points in the final, and Holcombe, who poured in 11 points. Rowell also scored 11.

Piedmont’s Breanna Thompson and Pisgah’s Lily Womack rounded out the all-tournament team.

The Broncos will play Straughn at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the state semifinals in Birmingham.