North Iredell erases 18-point deficit, knocks out WHS
North Iredell rallied from an 18-point first-half deficit, then completed the comeback with a furious fourth-quarter effort to stun Weddington, 55-50, in the second round of the 3A girls basketball playoffs.
Junior point guard Mariah Johnson led the charge, finishing with a game-high 31 points for the fifth-seeded Raiders (18-7). Johnson consistently gashed Weddington’s zone defense, particularly when sophomore Stephanie Watts and junior Bailee Carter were tethered to the bench due to foul trouble during the majority of the second half.
Johnson went 20-for-22 from the free-throw line, including a perfect 10-for-10 in the fourth quarter. Weddington as a team went 9-for-16 from the line.
That effort was enough to lift the Raiders to the third round of the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
For a while, it looked like that run would end.
Led by Watts – who drained a long 3-pointer less than a minute into the game, resulting in a quick Raiders timeout – Weddington (21-7) opened with a first-quarter blitzkrieg. The gifted guard scored 22 of her 24 points in the opening half on a barrage of 3-pointers, free throws and running floaters in the lane.
Weddington, the No. 4 seed in the Midwest bracket, led 21-13 after the first quarter and 38-20 at halftime.
Things turned for North when Watts and Carter both picked up four fouls midway through the third quarter.
Johnson, who guarded Watts all game, drew three charges during a three-minute span in the third quarter, the first of which gave Watts her fourth foul.
North didn’t lead until Johnson sank a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter, giving North a 49-47 lead with 2:30 to play.
In addition to Watts’ 22 points, Carter scored 15 – including eight in the first quarter.
With its top offensive threats in foul trouble, Weddington had to slow its preferred pace. The result: a 12-point second half and three-point fourth quarter.
North Iredell, which has gone 88-19 over the past four years, will play No. 1 seed Ledford (25-3) in the third round. The No. 1 seed in the Midwest bracket won Wednesday, 57-34 over Berry Academy.