Flames fight hard, but lose to ’Lopes

Northgate’s Adams brothers (No. 4 Shane and No. 13 Stephon) helped the Flames hold their own against Avonworth (Garrett Day at rear and Jamal Hughley, both in red) in the regular season finale for both teams last Friday night. The Antelopes won 63-52. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

By MEL PERKINS

Last Friday's match-up between rivals Northgate (6-8, 7-15) and Avonworth (9-5, 12-10) carried no playoff implications because Northgate needed Avonworth to lose to OLSH the prior Tuesday, but the ‘Lopes didn't comply. The Flames, however, never known to back down from a challenge, defended their house until the end, but were unable to overcome the physical battle that was waged inside the paint, succumbing to the playoff bound Lope's 63 - 52.

The first quarter proved to be a feeling-out period for both teams, and the Flames quickly got an idea of what kind of defense Avonworth was going to throw at them. The ‘Lopes went with a diamond-and-one zone defense, and they would stick with that most of the game, keying on Darrell Barron.

Avonworth wasted no time dropping it inside to Chris O'Malley, letting everybody know they wanted to establish a physical presence inside the paint. O'Malley put the ‘Lopes on the board first when he banked one in from underneath the hoop. After the game Avonworth's Coach Dan Bradley spoke about O'Malley, saying, "Our most consistent player over the season has been Chris O'Mally, big number 45, whether he's scoring points or distributing the ball from the high post, he's really a good all-around player."

Barron got the Flames started when he drove to the basket, getting fouled as he put it in. He converted the three-point play, but Northgate was still down 4 - 3. Ben Valeriano, Chase Brooks, and Shane Adams all contributed in the first quarter, and after one quarter of play, Northgate was down 10 - 9.

The second quarter started with Northgate turning it up a notch on defense. The Flames got a steal, and Rodney Burrow drove to the hoop for two, and Northgate enjoyed their first and only lead of the game 11 - 10. Avonworth's Kyle Crilley knocked down a three-pointer and the ‘Lopes re-took the lead 13 - 11.

With 6:10 on the clock, Barron drove to the hoop, and the game was tied 13 - 13. Both teams were trading baskets, but Avonworth was knocking down threes. Garret Day hit a three to give the ‘Lopes a 16 - 13 lead. Shane Adams responded by getting a steal and driving to the basket for two, and the score was 16 - 15.

Then, the ‘Lopes went on a 10-point run. With 1:52 left in the half, Camello ended the Flames' scoring drought by going to the line and making one of two to make the score 26 - 16. With 1:30 left in the half, O'Malley put one in under the basket, and Avonworth was up by 12, 28 -16.

Both Camello and Shane Adams hit baskets as the half came to an end, and the Flames went into the locker room trailing 28 - 20.

The third quarter started with both teams trading baskets, and Burrow and Shane Adams hitting threes. Then the Flames went on a run, with Barron rattling off five unanswered points to make the score 34 - 31. It was the closest Northgate had been since early in the first quarter.

But Northgate's comeback hit a snag when Barron was called for an intentional foul on O'Malley, who went to the line and sank three of three to make the score 38 - 31.

Barron quickly hit a jumper, hoping to regain momentum, but the refs hit Stephon Adams with an intentional foul, sending Adam Joyce to the line for two. Crilley hit the shot for the intentional foul and Avonworth was up 43 - 33.

A lot of teams would have packed it in for the night after the refs had taken the wind out of the Flames' sails, but Northgate dug in and kept fighting.

The third quarter ended with the Flames down 46 - 38.

Barron, Camello and Shane Adams got the scoring started for the Flames in the fourth quarter. Barron got fouled and made two. Northgate was down 47 - 44.

Both teams were battling, trading baskets. Barron again went to the foul line and sank two, and the Flames were down 51 - 48. That would be as close as Northgate would come.

Barron fouled out with just under a minute to go, and Avonworth held off the Flames off, 63 - 52.

"All season, when we came up against a big (guy) it just gave us problems, obviously because we had a serious height disadvantage. So, I think O'Malley, he had free rein in there to do whatever he wanted and he bounced us around a little bit," Northgate's Coach Perry Harrop said after the game.

Harrop was not happy with the way the refs called the game. "And, the way the game was called, it definitely wasn't to our advantage. I think they (refs) let things go, and when you let things go, the bigger, stronger team is going to have the advantage. When someone is bigger and stronger than you, you can only do so much."

Barron led the Flames in scoring, finishing the night with 18. Shane Adams finished behind him with 13.

Day led the ‘Lopes with 20, and O'Malley finished behind him with 16.

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