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With her team down by one point, Hickory senior Hillary Sigmon stepped to the free throw line with 16 seconds and a two shots to tie the game or take the lead.
"She is a seasoned player. She knows at that point it is time to put it on,â€ť said Hickory coach Barbara Helms. â€śBoth she and Jada Hillary showed they are seniors. They hit free throws at the end and made sure the ball was in their hands at the end.â€ť
Sigmon hit both free throws to give Hickory a 55-54 lead. Seconds later, Hillary hit two more free throws to help seal a 59-54 revenge victory over Newton-Conover.
On Nov. 30, the Lady Red Devils snapped Hickoryâ€™s 65-game regular season win streak with a 59-49 win. With Fridayâ€™s victory, round two goes to Hickory, but it wasnâ€™t easy.
The contest was a back-and-forth battle that saw Hickory build a lead as large as 10 points with 6:39 remaining in the game. Newton-Conover scrapped back.
â€śOur girls fought hard and fought back,â€ť said Newton-Conover coach Jonathan Tharpe. â€śThey were down and couldâ€™ve gone out, but they dug deep inside and fought hard to get back in the game.â€ť
The fourth quarter rally was led by Samiya Pitts who tied up a loose ball and collected a couple of steals, while Breanna Alston hit a three-pointer and Tiana Littlejohn added a basket. With 2 minutes remaining, Quazzy Tipps snagged a steal and converted it into a lay-up to bring Newton-Conover within one point. With 50 seconds, remaining Tipps hit a three-point shot to give Newton-Conover a 54-52 lead.
It wasnâ€™t enough. Hickory forced a key Newton-Conover turnover along the baseline in the Red Devilsâ€™ front court. Newton-Conover wouldnâ€™t produce another comeback.
â€śWow. That was a heck of a game to watch,â€ť Helms said. â€śThere was a lot of intensity on both ends. There were some ups and downs where both teams kind of made some runs at each other.
â€śI am glad we responded when we had to and converted on the free throws and kept our head up as the change of pace was taking place,â€ť she continued.
For Tharpe and the Lady Red Devils, Fridayâ€™s contest was more than a chance to beat a long-time rival.
â€śHickory makes us better,â€ť he said. â€śPlaying teams that are aggressive and get after it, I like to think that makes us better. Thatâ€™s why we play them.â€ť
And if the cards play out right, Newton-Conover and Hickory may face each other again in the Catawba County Christmas Classic.
Gibbs led Newton-Conover scorers with 13 points. Tipps added 12 and Littlejohn scored 11.