The Northpoint Christian School girls' basketball team has reached the TSSAA Division II-A West Region finals for the sixth straight year, following Thursday night's convincing, albeit low-scoring 40-18 victory over Tipton-Rosemark Academy in a regional semifinal game at Evangelical Christian School in Cordova.
A suffocating defense kept the Lady Rebels from getting past 10 points on the scoreboard until about six minutes were left in the game. TRA trailed Northpoint 18-6 at halftime.
Lady Trojans coach Barry Gray felt his team's defense was probably as good as it has been the entire year.
"The attention to detail the last week was really good," Gray said. "The things that we wanted to try to get done we got done. I was proud of their effort and I don't think you can play any better defensively in high school basketball."
Meanwhile, Jade Wells' inside play and Lindley Gaines' torrid shooting provided sufficient offense to lift the Lady Trojans to a 27-2 record entering Saturday night's West Region championship game against University School of Jackson (USJ), set for 6 p.m., also at Evangelical Christian School.
USJ held off Harding Academy 45-41 in Thursday's first semifinal game, as Harding junior Hadley Horner led all scorers with 17 points. USJ was paced by Ashton Hulme with 13 points for the Bruins.
Harding meets TRA in the consolation game Saturday at 2 p.m. All four teams advance to the sub-state round with Saturday's results determining its seeding.
After forging the 12-point lead at halftime, Northpoint kept the pressure up on the TRA attack and took a 19-point lead into the final quarter at 27-8.
A pair of free throws with 6:47 remaining in the ball game finally put the Lady Rebels into double digits at 30-10 for Northpoint.
It was Wells who took charge of the offense in the second half, as the senior dropped in 10 of her 12 points in the final 16 minutes of the game, seven of which came in the third quarter.
Wells also grabbed 10 rebounds for Northpoint.
Gaines hit nine of her 11 points in the first half, with six of those points coming in the second quarter of play. She finished perfect from the floor (5-for-5) which included a three-point basket.
Freshman Brianna Hall led TRA with eight points, six of which came in the second half and all six on free throws.
Thursday's contest was expected to be much closer than what it turned out to be, as Northpoint edged the Lady Rebels 45-43 earlier in the season on TRA's home floor.
But two statistics in the particular stood out for Gray about his team's performance.
"We had a team high in assists of 16 in the game, which means we're connecting the dots against their pressure, and we outrebounded them by 10. The last time they outrebounded us by two," Gray said.
As a Christian school, Gray is also mindful of his team's expression of their faith and feels this year's squad is showing that in their "coachability."
"I think the unique thing about them is with their faith being so strong, they're very coachable," he noted. "I think that goes back to who they are and their love for Christ."
With the victory, Northpoint placed itself in the region final and look to again host a sub-state game next week.
Saturday's meeting is a rematch of not only last year's West Region finals, won by the Lady Trojans 49-33, but also the state championship game in Nashville, which Northpoint won by a score of 70-54.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune