If you took Ally Niles’ points off the board, Carolina Forest would have been down 17-13 to Cane Bay at halftime.
Fortunately for the Panthers, Niles’ offensive output matched the entire Cane Bay team over the first two quarters.
The junior guard’s 23 points — including 17 in the first half — set the tone for the Panthers in their 51-39 win in the first round of the 5A playoffs Tuesday.
“Ally played big tonight offensively,” Carolina Forest coach Stacy Hughes said. “She was on fire.”
The Panthers’ defense also came out strong, forcing Cane Bay’s offense into early turnovers that the Panthers converted into points. Many of those came from the scrappy defense of point guard Gabby Giracello, who disrupted Cane Bay’s offense throughout the night.
“I’m just glad Gabby’s on our team,” Hughes said. “That’s for sure. Because she is a defensive gnat. Her hands are everywhere. She’s attacking the ball all the time. If there’s a loose ball, she’s going to get it.”
The lone lull for the Panthers came at the beginning of the third quarter when they failed to score for three minutes. Their lead was still 11, but Hughes called a timeout to refocus her squad.
"A thing we need to work on is coming out of halftime into the third quarter," Niles said. “[Hughes told us], ‘Get your heads right. … We don’t need to blow it now. We need to blow them out and show them who has home court.’”
After the break, Niles hit a three and the Panthers were off and running again. By the end of the quarter, they had extended their lead to 44-28.
Carolina Forest will host River Bluff on Friday night. Over the next few days, Hughes said her emphasis will be on reducing turnovers while maintaining an aggressive approach. At this point in the playoffs, she said, her team can't afford scoring droughts.
“You can’t do that,” she said. “You can’t have a three- or four-minute lapse where we’re not scoring. … There are no easy games from here on out.”
Other Tuesday prep basketball scores:
Wando 67 Socastee 40
North Myrtle Beach 70 South Aiken 26
Myrtle Beach 34 Colleton County 31
Bishop England 84 Loris 52
Baptist Hill 91 Green Sea Floyds 37