PRICEVILLE — As Brewer High’s girls basketball season has gone along, sometimes the Patriots’ tallest and most accomplished player gets lost in the crowd.
It’s not that Brewer forgets about 6-foot-1 all-state center Riley Northway. Instead, it’s by design as head coach Ricky Allen sometimes asks her to step into the background while he builds the rest of the team. He said he knows when Brewer needs Northway, she’ll be ready.
She was ready Thursday night. Playing in the Morgan County tournament semifinals in front of a packed Priceville High gym, Northway poured in 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as Brewer beat rival Hartselle 61-32.
Brewer will play for its second straight Morgan County title Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
“We know that when it’s crunch time, Riley is going to be there,” Allen said. “She wants to be a leader. The kids have so much confidence in her. There’s arrogant, and there’s determined. She’s determined, especially when we need her.”
Allen’s strategy appears to have worked, as Brewer is 22-1 and ranked No. 1 in Class 5A.
And Northway has proven her patience and stepped forward when needed, especially in the first half Thursday night.
As the Patriots struggled with the half-court defense orchestrated by Hartselle coach Gary Orr, Northway did much of her work. With starters Rheagan Harvel and Malerie Drinkard dealing with foul trouble, Northway had nearly half of her team’s points, scoring 15 points as Brewer managed a 32-23 halftime advantage.
“I think to have a great team and not just a good team, it’s not all about one player,” Northway said. “I think it’s extremely important for us to develop everyone. When I’m needed to step up, I’ll ask for the ball.
“I like pressure. I’m confident in those situations, and I want the ball.”
At halftime, Brewer figured out how to attack the Hartselle defense. Once again, Northway stepped back as her teammates steadily built the lead.
Harvel, who finished with 11 points, managed one play in which she drove downcourt against a spread-out defense, weaved into the lane, scored, drew the foul and made the free throw. Drinkard did the same earlier. Savana Flack, who didn’t score in the first half, pitched in a couple of third quarter baskets to get Brewer restarted after intermission.
Cheyenne McLemore sank a 3-pointer and a 2-pointer as she finished with nine. Northway played the whole game, not coming out until 3:15 left, getting a hand from fans behind the bench as Drinkard and McLemore stood to greet her.
“Hartselle was exactly what we expected,” Allen said. “Gary Orr is the best defensive coach around, and we’re not accustomed to being played inside like they did. It took us some time to figure it out.”
Despite a scrappy effort, Hartselle (14-9) struggled to score after halftime. Melissa Paul Hill led the way with nine points, while Shaneal Johnson added seven. Both players sank a 3-pointer.
Contact Mark Edwards at email@example.com or 256-340-2461.
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