JACKSONVILLE — A bunch of teen-aged girls. A road trip. Hotel rooms.
An overnight stay.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster? Apparently, that wasn't the case for Brewer High's girls basketball team when the Patriots traveled to Jacksonville State for the Northeast Regional. The players say that when the team made the two-hour trip to town Monday night, they had nothing but business on their minds. And on Tuesday morning, they went about the business of beating the basketball life out of Center Point 68-43 in the regional semifinals.
"It's actually really amazing because we were in bed by 9 o'clock. We didn't want to talk. We didn't want to watch TV. We didn't want to hang out," Brewer guard Rheagan Harvel said.
This game matched up the No. 1-ranked Patriots and defending state champions against the team that won the 2011 title and was ranked No. 2. In addition, Center Point came in with three players who already have signed with NCAA Division I schools.
But business-like Brewer grabbed a 15-point advantage by the end of the first quarter and never led by fewer points the rest of the way.
The Patriots (31-1) will play in the finals Friday at 4 p.m. against Columbia (17-17), which advanced with a 36-26 win over Ramsay.
"Our kids were so focused, so determined and knew what they wanted to do," Patriots coach Ricky Allen said.
In the matchup of marquee players, Brewer held the advantage there, too. The Patriots got 22 points and seven rebounds from 6-foot-1 junior center Riley Northway, who has garnered interest from Alabama, among other major schools.
However, Northway had plenty of help, especially on defense.
Center Point guard Dominique Patrick, a Grambling signee, managed 20 points, but Auburn signee Keonna Farmer, a 6-foot-0 guard, struggled against the defense of Brewer's Cheyenne McLemore and managed 12 points. Center Point 6-0 center Gabrielle Holston, who has signed with Georgia Tech, guarded Northway, but on the other end of the floor, Brewer's Malerie Drinkard defended her closely all game. Holston played 20 minutes and finished with no points and no rebounds.
Offensively, Northway had the most points but didn't have to carry the early load. Brewer's first five baskets came from five different people, and of the Patriots' first 23 points, Northway had only two.
Her chances came later as Center Point grew tired of chasing the Patriots' perimeter players.
"I had a conversation with a parent who asked me if I feel any pressure in the big games," Northway said. "I told her that I don't feel any. I have such wonderful teammates around me, and I don't think anything about having to score or anything like that."
Harvel finished with 13 points and three steals, while Savana Flack added 12 points and five assists. Drinkard contributed 10 points, six rebounds and four assists. McLemore had seven points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
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