For the better part of three quarters on Saturday afternoon, the Georgia Northwestern Lady Bobcats much played even with the visiting Hiwassee Lady Tigers.
But a big first quarter by the ladies from Madisonville, Tenn. would ultimately be too much to overcome.
Hiwassee took a commanding 20-4 lead after the first 10 minutes and kept their distance from the Lady Bobcats the rest of the way to score a 67-47 victory in the championship game of the third annual Tim Walthour Memorial Tournament at the Rossville Athletic center.
Using a significant size and depth advantage, the Lady Tigers (8-5) stormed out to double-digit lead early on. Georgia Northwestern (7-2) would regroup as nine first-half points by Tori Harvey and seven from Jayla Stone pulled them to within 11 points of the lead, 35-24, by halftime. However, 11 points would be as close as the home team would get the rest of the way.
Two free throws by Stone made it 41-30 Hiwassee with 4:38 left in the third, but the Lady Tigers would push things back out to 52-37 by the end of the period. Fatigue would set in for the short-handed Lady Bobcats in the final 10 minutes as the Lady Tigers began to pull away for good.
"We thought coming in today that we might have a problem with (Hiwassee's) substitutions and its size," GNTC head coach David Stephenson said. "Without (injured 6-foot-3 center) Madison (Lewis) in the lineup, we get really small really quick and the girls they were bringing in were bigger than anybody we had. Then, when those girls got tired, they brought in more girls that were still bigger than anybody we had.
"They ended up playing 12 girls today and we just had seven. If we had woken up from the start and played that first quarter like we played the last three, we would have been alright."
Harvey had 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in the loss. Stone went for 14, while Mia Clark finished with five. Tori Hall had four points, while Katy Phillips and Taylor Bethune had two points each to round out the scoring the Lady Bobcats.
Valerie Cheek had 19 points to pace Hiwassee, followed by 15 from J'lynn Majors and 12 from Ny'asia Holmes.
"Hiwassee beat us by more than 60 points in a game last year and another time by almost 50, so today just showed that we've really come pretty far," Stephenson added. "As a staff, once we realized what we had with this year's team, we thought we'd have a chance to be 7-2 by Christmas break and that's exactly where we are."
The Lady Bobcats will take a month off and return to the court on Jan. 9 for a road game in Dayton, Tenn. against the Bryan College JV squad.
The Welch Lady Flames took the consolation game over Trinity Baptist College, 72-53, while the Trinity Baptist men's team won an exciting 67-61 decision in the men's championship game against Welch.
There was no men's consolation game as Georgia Gwinnett College was unable to make the drive up from Lawrenceville due to Friday's winter weather.