By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
JACKSONVILLE — Coach Scott Adams knows what it's like for his team to be involved in down-to-the-wire games.
Holly Pond has certainly played its share of close contests in playoffs past, and Thursday's matchup against Piedmont was no different, as the No. 7 Broncos held off a tough Bulldog squad late to pull away for a 41-34 victory in the Northeast 3A girls regional semifinal.
"Incredible game," Adams said. "We've always been involved in these type of games. They just kept scrapping and scrapping."
Holly Pond (26-5) got off to a fast start, racing out to a 10-3 lead in the first quarter, before 3-pointers by Natasha Holcombe, Rachel Finley and Taylor Terry in the second extended the Broncos lead to 11 going into halftime.
Adams attributed good team defense and rebounding to the early cushion.
"Rebounding was crucial for us," he said. "I also can't say enough about our effort in defending their posts."
The Bulldogs bit back to open the third quarter, as forwards BreAnna Thompson and Sarah Garner scored seven and eight points each, respectively, in the frame to trim their deficit to just three points.
Taylor Rowell played big minutes for Holly Pond in the third, scoring all seven of her team's points to keep the Broncos in front heading into the fourth and final quarter.
"Taylor hit a huge, huge 3-pointer for us late in that quarter," Adams said. "I've been trying to get her to shoot more all year."
Piedmont scratched and clawed its way back into the game late, tying the score at 34-all on a basket from Garner with just over two minutes left to play.
On the ensuing Holly Pond possession, Holcombe turned the ball over on a traveling violation but soon found redemption.
The junior forward secured a rebound following a Bulldog miss, then drove the entire length of the court and scored a layup to give the Broncos a 36-34 advantage with 1:20 left on the clock
"I wasn't sure about her doing that initially," Adams said. "However, I think that was the play of the year so far for us."
Terry added a basket of her own just seconds later to stake Holly Pond to a four-point cushion.
From there, the defense held its own, and Adam's squad made its free throws to advance to the regional championship against No. 8 Ashville (28-3) Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Terry paced the Broncos' attack with 10 points, while Rowell and Meg
Gambrill were each good for nine. Holcombe knocked in eight points to go along with her 13 rebounds. Finley also contributed five.
As the journey continues for Holly Pond, Adams praised the cohesiveness of his girls.
"I love this team. They're incredible," he said. "In my 24 years of coaching, I don't ever think I've seen a team love and care about one another like this one."
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.