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North Cobb upsets Newton girls in opening round

Newton’s Sonia Forney drives to the basket against North Cobb in Friday’s Class AAAAAA first round game. Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Newton’s Sonia Forney drives to the basket against North Cobb in Friday’s Class AAAAAA first round game. Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Through one quarter of play Friday in Covington, the North Cobb girls basketball team didn’t look much like a team that had hopes of returning to the state semifinals.

But with outside shooting like it had over the final three quarters, the Warriors appear to be more than capable of getting back to the final four.

North Cobb hit 10 3-pointers and held off a late rally from Newton for a 59-50 victory in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.

The visitors from Kennesaw, who improved to 20-9, move on to Monday’s round of 16, while Newton, the Region 2-AAAAAA champions, had its 13-game winning streak snapped and finished 21-7.

“If we get our feet set, we can shoot it,” said North Cobb coach John Speeney, whose team finished sixth in the regular season in the difficult region 4 before grabbing the No. 4 seed in the league tournament. “Newton High School, they have a great basketball team (but) our girls stepped up and I’m proud of them. It’s been a nice run.”

North Cobb, which has reached at least the second round for the fifth consecutive season, took its largest lead of the night at 41-26 on one of Chantel Strahorn’s five 3-pointers with three minutes remaining in the third. Newton didn’t go away, finishing the third on a 9-2 run to get within eight points heading into the final period.

The run continued at the start of the fourth, thanks to the outside shooting of Deandra Reed. Reed, who last time she played on her home court torched Luella for six 3-pointers, drained a pair of threes on consecutive possessions, her first points of the night, which made it a 43-41 game at he 6:46 mark.

It was a 48-47 game after Reed hit another from behind the arc, but Strahorn answered at the other end with a three and Aniya Corley followed with a lay up in transition and North Cobb led 53-47 with just under two minutes to go.

Newton got seven first-quarter points from Cynteria Langhorne, including a bucket with 44 seconds left that sent the Rams into the second quarter up 17-11.

The second, though, belonged to the visiting Warriors.

Thanks to two of Strahorn’s three first-half 3-pointers, North Cobb scored the first 14 points of the period and led 25-17 at the two-minute mark. After Langhorne’s late-first quarter basket, the Rams scored just one point - a free throw by Sonia Forney at the 1:40 mark - the rest of the half.

North Cobb’s three-point prowess continued late in the half as Moriah Hopkins and Corley each hit a long ball, the last of six opening-half 3-pointers for the visitors, and it was a 31-18 lead at the break.

Strahorn led all scorers with 16 points, while Corley added 14 and Kyrie Chandler, 10 for North Cobb. Newton was paced by Reed and Forney, who had nine points each.

It was an opening round Cobb County sweep as Hillgrove’s boys defeated Newton 56-44 in the nightcap.

After a field goal by D.J. Hill at the four-minute mark of the third, Newton (21-8) led 35-25 and looked poised to take control of the game. But that’s just when the hosts offense turned cold, going exactly six minutes without a point, and the visitors from Powder Springs evened things up by scoring the final 10 points of the third, four of which came as part of a 13-point night for Keith Ray.

Hillgrove (21-7) kept it up at the start of the fourth, extending the spurt out to 16 consecutive points as Ray had all six of the game’s points in the first 1:16 of the period.

Hill hit a difficult, baseline runner to cut it to 41-37, but Hillgrove’s 7-0 answer pushed the lead to 48-37 with about 3 1/2 minutes to go in the game.

Hillgrove avenged a loss to Newton in the first round of the 2011 Class AAAAA playoffs, which was the last time the programs met.

The visiting Hawks had a nice first quarter as five different players scored to help grab a 13-7 lead after one.

Newton still trailed 15-11 two minutes into the second before knocking down some shots. Beginning with Keion Sims’ bucket at the 5:52 mark, Newton finished the opening half on a 14-3 run and went up 25-18 at halftime.

B.J. Brown had nine of his 11 points in the third, including a 3-pointer that cut Newton’s cushion to 30-25. Darvin Jones hit a three before Hill’s bucket made it a 10-point game.

Jalen Glover, playing his final game in a Newton uniform, led all scorers with 15 points. The Rams were playing in their first state playoff game since being eliminated by Valdosta in the 2011 Elite 8.