NORCROSS — In a tie game for the Region 7-AAAAAAA Tournament championship against No. 7 Norcross, Brookwood’s girls basketball team had plenty of options to try and get the win with the clock winding down.
Shannon Niles was probably the last of those options one might have expected, but the freshman delivered with and end-to-end drive and a layup with two seconds left to lift the eighth-ranked Broncos to a 50-48 victory Friday night at Meadowcreek High School.
Alea Spears finished with a game-high 20 points, while Kiki Adams added seven points and 15 rebounds, but it was the last of Niles’ seven points that gave Brookwood (20-6) its first region title since 2011 and a home date with Mill Creek in the first round of the Class AAAAAAA state tournament next Friday.
“That was a tough battle, and it always is against Norcross,” Brookwood coach Carolyn Whitney said. “This region is really tough, so every game we’ve had this week has been a battle. … (The win) means so much, not just for me, but for those kids. They have been working their butts off. They have bought into me, and they’ve embraced me, and they’ve worked so hard for each other. It’s just a great feeling for them.”
It looked like that feeling would come earlier in the evening when the Broncos built as much as a 15-point lead at 28-13 when Spears scored seven points in an 8-0 run with 2:32 left in the first half.
Norcross (17-10) chipped into the lead a bit, but still trailed 30-19 at halftime before turning up the defensive pressure, and getting its offense ignited by the penetrating of Myra Strickland coming out of the locker room.
Twice in the third quarter, the senior managed to draw the Brookwood defense to her and find Mariah Baltierra and Avery Bache wide open on the wing, and both guards knocked down shots from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils held the Broncos to just two third-quarter points, and Strickland hit a 3-pointer of her own with 1:12 left to send the game into the fourth quarter with Norcross trailing just 32-31.
The two teams went back-and-forth in the final frame, trading leads twice with five ties, with Spears connecting for seven points, while Baltierra helped Norcross answer with two more 3-pointers.
Down 48-46 following an Adams free throw with 24.6 seconds left, Strickland drove down the lane again to draw the Brookwood defense, this time finding Tionna Carter for layup with 14 seconds left to even the game once again at 48-all.
Following a timeout with 9.8 seconds left, Whitney drew up a play for the final shot, and it didn’t include Niles taking it.
But that didn’t stop her from taking the initiative when she saw the floor open up after receiving the inbound pass.
“I saw nobody was guarding me,” Niles said. “And nobody stepped up when I was headed to the basket. So I was like, ‘I might as well (take it to the basket). You only live once.’”
That instinct proved fruitful as Niles went coast-to-coast to lay the ball in before the Norcross defense could recover with just two seconds left to put Brookwood in front 50-48.
“That was not drawn up for Shannon,” Whitney said. “But for her to not panic in that situation as a freshman, that was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen a freshman make.”
Norcross had one last chance after getting the ball quickly back into play, and then calling timeout with 1.2 seconds left.
Carter came out to meet the ensuing inbound pass and got a good look at the basket from about 30 feet out, but the senior’s shot bounded off the backboard and the rim as the buzzer sounded.
While Spears, Adams and Niles handled most of the offense for the Broncos, Selma Kulo was a force on the defensive end with five rebounds and six blocked shots to go with four points.
Morgan Robinson-Nwagwu helped keep Norcross afloat when trying to keep Brookwood running away and led the way with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. The Blue Devils, who will host Mountain View in a first-round state game next week, also got 12 points, five rebounds and five assists from Strickland, nine points from Baltierra and six points and nine boards from Yamani Paul.