The ball rose up, hit the backboard and rolled off the rim.
After North Surry held as much as a 12-point lead in third quarter on rival Surry Central, the game came down to a runner at the buzzer to see if the teams were going to be tied.
The Lady Greyhounds survived the comeback to win 32-30 and clinch second place in the Western Piedmont Conference — and an automatic berth in the 2A state playoffs, per the COVID-related rule changes for this year by the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
If a conference has six or fewer teams, then only one automatic bid is given. The WPAC has eight teams and gets two automatic berths. Undefeated West Stokes (10-0) gets one of those, and North Surry (9-3) gets the other.
Surry Central was 6-3 on Tuesday afternoon and had a chance to earn its way into the conversation with games against both teams on back-to-back days.
On Tuesday the Lady Eagles trailed most of the game before briefly taking the lead in the fourth quarter. That loss — along with North Surry’s win over Forbush Friday night — all but wrapped up the second spot already. Then Wednesday’s game sealed the deal.
In the first quarter, it looked like Central might pull off that upset on the road and keep that slim hope alive.
The Eagles pulled ahead 6-2 and were down just a point at 9-8 while leading the foul category; the visitors had drawn five fouls while only committing one. In fact, after getting a fast break layup from guard Arial Holt to open scoring, the only points for the Eagles were foul shots as the team went a perfect 6-6.
Unfortunately, that trend would continue.
The drought without a basket stretched to 15 minutes, and Central didn’t get any more free throws, either, being held scoreless in the second quarter.
North Surry scored just nine points, but that was enough to turn an 11-8 first-quarter lead into a 20-8 halftime margin.
The Greyhounds made steals, blocked a shot, forced a charge and got out in transition for a couple of baskets when halfcourt offenses were struggling.
The third quarter didn’t start off hot for either offense. About three minutes in, each team had one goal. Then from that 22-10 lead, the Eagles started to make a push.
It began with a five-second call on a sidelines inbounds play that got Central coach Mandy Holt and her staff pumped up.
Leading scorer Mia McMillen was held scoreless in the first half. Here, she made a basket and split a pair of free throws to make it 22-13. Jordan Westmoreland also split two free throws to make it 22-14.
North’s Sadie Badgett made a basket, but Central senior reserve Martha Antuñez scored her only hoop of the night to answer. Then Central’s Holt scored to make it 24-18 late in the third.
After Central missed the front end of a 1-and-1, North Surry had the ball with 1:21 left in the quarter.
Coach Shane Slate had the team run the offense and not take a shot until the girls found a good look. More than a minute passed with Coach Holt imploring her team to “keep working” and “don’t let up.”
Finally at the end of the period, North settled for a tough shot that didn’t go.
Central had the first points of the fourth quarter as Megan Atkins made two free throws to cut the lead to four.
North’s Callie Robertson answered with a bucket for her first points of the game.
The Eagles started playing full-court defense with traps both in the backcourt and halfcourt. McMillen — a three-sport star, including track — showed off her speed to nab passes and trigger fast breaks.
She scored a layup, then North’s Callie Allen was fouled and made both shots. Like Robertson, this was the first time in the game she had scored.
McMillen scored a second layup to make it 28-24.
The officials called a timeout for a mask break at 3:51 remaining. North came out and ran 24 seconds off the clock before Coach Slate called a timeout to calm his team down amid some scary passing.
Coming back out, the team ran a play and found Allen cutting to the basket for a layup and a 30-24 lead with a little more than three minutes left. The team had a chance to add more at 2:44, but Sarah Mauldin missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Then McMillen started a one-person fast break and scored three straight baskets to tie the game at 30-all.
Coach Holt called a timeout on the third layup with 1:20 left. At that point, McMillen had scored the past 10 points for the Eagles, while other players had missed a few open looks inside in the game.
Rather than keep the press going, Holt had Central back off and play zone. North looked a little unsure at that point, and a player walked on the perimeter.
McMillen dribbled down, but instead of attacking, attempted to pass to a teammate popping out in the corner. The ball got away and went out of bounds to give possession back to North.
This time the Hounds were more settled, making a pass from the left wing to Robertson at the left elbow. She swished the jumper with 19.5 seconds left, and Coach Slate called a timeout with 18.0 left to set up his defense.
Central drove down, looking for the paint, but the ball was knocked out along the baseline with only 3.2 seconds left.
Coach Holt called out a play, looking for the win instead of the tie.
The Eagles set a double screen for Atkins, the team’s leading 3-point shooter to pop out behind it and shoot. The Hounds’ Allen chased Atkins off the 3-point line and stayed on her hip as she drove past the free throw line and hoisted a floater that almost fell.
• While Allen may not have scored until the fourth quarter, the junior was all over the court, getting seven deflections, six steals and forcing tough shots. She also had three assists and three boards to go with her four points.
Before the game was over, the coaches were being alerted that school had been canceled for Thursday, meaning all sporting events for the day would also be canceled/postponed.
North Surry was set to travel to Walkertown Thursday, and Surry Central was supposed to have its Senior Night for Atkins, Antuñez and Westmoreland against North Forsyth. Unless the game can be rescheduled for Friday or Saturday, Senior Night will be canceled because the NCHSAA has decreed that all regular-season games must be played by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 20.
The athletic association will be deciding brackets and matchups on Sunday. Then, the first-round games will be played Tuesday.
“The playoffs were one of the goals we set at the beginning of the season,” said North Surry coach Shane Slate. “And I am pleased that we have grown into that opportunity.”
At one point the Hounds were just 5-3 after a 39-point blowout to West Stokes, but team rebounded to take the past four games.
SURRY CENTRAL — 8, 0, 10, 12 = 30
NORTH SURRY — 11, 9, 4, 8 = 32
SCHS: Mia McMillen 13, Arial Holt 6, Jordan Westmoreland 3, Megan Atkins 2, Martha Antuñez 2, Jaylyn Templeton 2, Brittany Frausto 2
NSHS: Cynthia Chaire 7, Sarah Mauldin 6, Khloe Bennett 5, Callie Robertson 4, Callie Allen 4, Sadie Badgett 4, Micah Felts 2