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Girls basketball: Dade County closes game on 9-0 run to grab No. 3 seed for state tournament

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The Armuchee girls knocked down seven 3-pointers on Saturday. 

They ultimately needed one more.

Facing Dade County in the third-place game of the Region 7-AA tournament, the Lady Indians saw a seven-point lead slip away in the final 4½ minutes and were saddled with a disheartening 48-46 loss after Dade County closed the game on a 9-0 run.

Armuchee finished 7-of-18 from long range — which was one of their best showings of the season — but missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer while losing to the Lady Wolverines (21-6) for the third time this year.

Dade County’s Erika Woodfin scored a game-high 27 points, including making four 3-pointers and going 7-of-9 at the foul line.

Jess Ann Nix finished with 15 points for Armuchee (14-13), Heather Shore added 12 and Mary Bess Skinner had 11.

The defeat means Armuchee will now have to travel to Norcross to face top-ranked and top-seeded Wesleyan — which has won eight state titles in the past nine years — Tuesday night in the opening round of the state tournament.

That game will not only be physical test for the Lady Indians but a mental challenge, too, as they will have to rebound quickly from Saturday’s emotional loss.

“It’s going to be tough, but we’ll have to fight through it,” said Shore, the senior post player. “We’ll just have to turn around and be ready to come out and practice hard on Monday.”

Armuchee could have avoided the match-up against Wesleyan by beating Dade County, and for much of the game, it appeared they were poised to do so.

But Armuchee veered off course down the stretch.

The Lady Indians led by as much as nine points early in the fourth quarter and held a 46-39 advantage after a basket by JessAnn Nix with 4:31 to play.

But Woodfin brought Dade County back.

She scored the first seven points of Dade County’s 9-0 game-ending run, and Hailey Gass scored the go-ahead basket with 1:07 remaining.

Armuchee had three more possessions with a chance to tie or take the lead, but came up empty.

Armuchee head coach Michelle Arp said the Lady Indians simply wasted too many opportunities, not only at the end of the game but throughout the contest.

“There were several times when we beat their press, but we made a bad pass or missed a shot at the end (of the play),” said Arp.

Early on, both teams were on fire from long range. Six of the first seven field goals in the first quarter were 3-pointers (three by each team).

Nix then closed the quarter with two more 3s, giving Armuchee a total of five in the opening eight minutes and enabling Armuchee to build a 17-13 lead at the end of the period.

The trend continued in the second quarter, when Dade County hit more 3-pointers and built a 34-23 lead at the half. All told, the teams combined for 11 3s in the first half.

Armuchee seized control in the third quarter, outscoring Dade County 13-7 to open up a 36-31 advantage. Skinner highlighted the quarter with a 3-pointer from the wing and Shore added a pair of buckets.

Armuchee then built its nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter before Woodfin turned the game around.

Her 3-pointer with 3:50 to play ignited Dade County’s 9-0 run, and she finished with 12 of Dade County’s 17 points in the period.

Now, Armuchee will turn its attention to its next task and try to slay one of the biggest postseason giants in the state: Wesleyan.

Prior to moving back to Class AA this season, the Lady Wolves won four straight Class A titles (from 2009-2012). Before that, they won four Class AA championships (in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008).

Still, Armuchee doesn’t plan to be intimidated by the banners hanging on the walls in the Wesleyan gym.

“We like challenges,” said Shore. “We’re ready to take them on.”