TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield High School's girls basketball team couldn't overcome the platoon-swapping Pickens press Friday night in the Region 7-4A championship game in Tunnel Hill.
Whenever a group of Pickens players wearied, a fresh five came in, ready to cause enough havoc and turnovers to put Northwest out of reach, winning 56-42 and earning the region tournament championship to go with a regular-season crown.
Northwest (13-10) only lost three region games all season, but all three were to Pickens (20-4)
In the most recent loss, the Lady Bruins played well in spurts but were unable to fully adjust to a hawking, full-court press that Pickens employed for much of the game.
Pickens had trouble turning those turnovers into points early on though, and Northwest was behind just 17-14 after one, thanks in part to two first-quarter 3-pointers from McKenzie Brueckner.
Brueckner scored eight of her 11 in that first quarter, then Emma Allen, who led the Lady Bruins with 22, scored nine in the second to keep Northwest afloat.
By the second, though, Pickens began to convert.
Seven straight points gave them a 28-20 lead after an Allen 3-pointer cut the game to one, and Pickens went into halftime up 31-23.
Northwest scored the first basket of the second half, but then the stifling Pickens defense shut down the Lady Bruins once again while the offense rattled off another seven to get the first double-digit lead midway through the third.
The Lady Bruins closed the gap to as little as four early in the fourth, but they wouldn't get any closer. Northwest began to intentionally foul to preserve time with about three minutes to go, but the lead only grew.
The tournament's second-seeded Lady Bruins is the region's second seed in the Class 4A playoffs and host a playoff game. Northwest hosts Druid Hills, the third-seeded team in Region 6-4A, either Monday or Tuesday.