The Lady Jaguars of Northwest went to the gym at Wootton to play the Lady Patriots with a plan. They were going to disrupt the Wootton offense.
The Lady Jags entered the playoffs with a 6-15 record, while Wootton came into Friday night’s game even with an 11-11 record. The last time the two teams played each other on December 6, in the first game of the season, the Lady Pats ran away with an easy 81-46 victory. Northwest was determined not to let that happen a second time.
Northwest Head Coach Lawrence Leonard had his girls pressing and playing aggressive defense for almost the entire game.
The strategy worked for most of Friday night’s first-round playoff game. The Lady Jags clung to a slight lead on three different times Northwest lead by six points, but Wootton would reel in the Jags and take the lead by a point or two. However, the Wootton leads were all short lived, as the Lady Jags led by seniors Mariah Ellis and Alexis Mack would find ways to regain the lead. Ellis led the Jags with 16 points, while Mack finished with 13 points.
However, there two major drawbacks to playing full-court press and aggressive defense for an extended period of time. The first is fatigue, which Coach Lawrence addressed by resting players on a consistent rotation. The second is foul trouble, Ellis was called for her fifth foul in the final two minutes of the game and was unable to be on the court down the stretch. Ellis’ on-court presence, ball handling skills, staggering defense, and ability to find the hoop kept the Jags in the game. She seemed to be everywhere and the other players fed off her ability to make plays.
The Patriots found themselves down by six points early and set to work at chipping away at the Northwest lead. The Jags managed some mini-runs of six points but were never able to get the extra bucket or two that would have put the Lady Pats away. Wootton hung around and waited for the chance to take the lead late.
Wootton tied the game at 52 with 2:51 remaining. The Lady Patriots took the lead for good 54-52 about twenty seconds later. The Jags were unable to score in the final two minutes. Northwest’s high-pressure defense led to three Lady Jags fouling out of the game and put Wootton in the Bonus. Down the stretch, Wootton’s Zoey Goldberg made two big foul shots in the final 30 seconds of the game to extend the lead to 56-52. Goldberg shot 8-for-11 from the foul line, finishing with 22 points to lead all scorers. Two more foul shots from Katie Gillick in the final 15 seconds put the game out of reach, 58-52. Wootton had two other players in double-digits Laura Darby scored 12 points, and Crystal Bridge added 10 points in the win.
Wootton, now 12-11 will go on the road to face top-seeded 16-5 Gaithersburg on Monday, Feb. 27.
In other girls’ basketball news, the 0-23 Seneca Valley girls ended their season with a 71-19 loss at 19-2 Damascus. Damascus will advance to face 20-3 Poolesville on Monday, Feb. 27. Poolesville beat Urbana 60-32 on Friday night.
Top: Northwest senior Mariah Ellis (2) shoots up a jump shot in Friday’s playoff game versus Wootton. Ellis would lead the Lady Jags in scoring with 16 points.
Next: Despite a staggering defensive effort from Northwest, the Lady Patriots were able to keep pace and take the lead late in the game. Zoey Goldberg (5) led all scorers with 22 points in the victory.
Video: Northwest freshman Jordyn Herwood (33) hits a 3-pointer.
Next: Northwest senior Alexis Mack (1) drives to the basket around Wootton’s Katie Gillick (11). Mack would end her Northwest career with 12 points in the playoff game.
Next: Northwest senior Na’Shay Jones (14) drives the lane for a shot. She would end her Jaguar career with eight points in the game, including two 3-pointers.
Photos and video by Germantown Pulse.