JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Northview Lady Titans entered the Region 7-AAAAAA tournament as favorites to capture the school’s first-ever region championship in basketball, a much different role than they held last year — the underdogs facing the goliaths of the Forsyth County teams. But Northview reveled in its new role this season, going 19-0 in region play and capturing the region championship with a decisive 58-38 win over Alpharetta Saturday at Johns Creek.
Before Northview’s first tipoff this season, players and head coach Chris Yarbrough made it clear — the region championship was the ultimate goal. Any doubt about just how badly the team desired the region title was put to rest early in the Lady Titans’ game against Alpharetta, where Northview came out with blazing offense and an impenetrable defense to open a 20-1 lead.
But Alpharetta, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, fought back to cut Northview’s lead to 10 points in the third quarter. It was a deficit the Lady Raiders would not overcome, as Northview finished strong to take the championship. Northview won all three of its region tournament games by at least 20 points.
“I’m so proud of those girls,” Yarbrough said. “It’s tough with a target on your back but they embraced it today.”
Yarbrough said his team’s strategy for the region tournament was to pull away early in games. Alpharetta scored just four points from the floor in the first half.
“I thought our defense was amazing in the first half. We were moving, filling passing lanes, making them shoot long, contested jump shots and we were really controlling the glass. Last week [Alpharetta] outrebounded us by 20 so we made a strong effort to clear them off the glass tonight,” Yarbrough said.
“Even though I knew we had that lead at halftime I knew Alpharetta was going to come out and make a run,” he said. “We didn’t settle down early enough, but we made a few adjustments and started getting inside and that helped open things up for us.”
Northview was led by its usual suspects, Shannon Titus, Maya Richards and Ashlee Austin.
Titus, as she always seems to do, made plays all over the court. She led in scoring with 16 points and gathered in eight rebounds and had three assists, two steals and six blocks.
“Shannon played so great defensively,” Yarbrough said.
Austin and Richards each had a double-double. Austin scored 14 points with 10 rebounds and Richards scored 12 with 11 rebounds.
“I really thought Ashlee took over in the second half,” Yarbrough said. “She was really determined. We had a mismatch when [Alpharetta] got in foul trouble and we took advantage of it to get the ball down low. A lot of that came from great passing and Maya Richards who made some great passes.”
Though ecstatic with his team’s region title, Northview now looks ahead to the state tournament.
“Everyone is 0-0 again,” Yarbrough said. “It’s all one and done. It’s going to be a tough game in our house Friday.”
Northview will host South Paulding (15-12) this Friday.
Alpharetta will host Mays (17-9) in the first round.
Chattahoochee secured the No. 3 seed with a 48-38 win over Pope. The Lady Cougars will face New Manchester (16-11) on the road this Friday.