Top-ranked Pisgah was having a difficult time shaking No. 10 Glencoe during the Class 3A Girls Northeast Regional championship game.
Enter Annie Hughes.
The Auburn signee scored 21 points in the second half and then put on an impressive dribbling display with the Eagles working the clock during a 67-53 win over Glencoe at Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum on Wednesday.
“It was time for me to step up,” Hughes said. “I had to do what the team needed. You have to do what it takes for as long as it takes.”
It’s Pisgah’s 12th all-time Northeast Regional championship and the 11th during Carey Ellison’s 23-year tenure as head coach.
Pisgah (32-1) plays Southwest Regional champion Prattville Christian (25-8) Tuesday at noon in the Class 3A state tournament semifinals at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s Legacy Arena.
“Every time you win you get one more chance, so that’s exciting,” Ellison said. “If we continue that next week, we’ve got an opportunity to give it a shot again [of winning a state championship].”
The Eagles were too much for Glencoe for a second straight season. Pisgah also defeated the Yellow Jackets in last year’s regional final during its state championship run a year ago.
But Glencoe was game early on, leading 11-6 after one quarter and by as many as seven points in the second before Pisgah closed the half with a 21-7 run, capped off by Molly Heard’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
Pisgah upped its lead to 49-39 at the end of the third quarter — Kennedy Barron made a putback to beat the buzzer — and after Glencoe pulled within 52-46 with just six minutes remaining, Hughes, Bailey Law and Chloe Womack scored buckets over the next minute and the Eagles’ led never dipped back into single digits again. Pisgah made 7 of 10 free throws over the final minute to seal it.
“I thought we played well. Pisgah’s a heck of a team, 32-1, defending state champion,” said Glencoe head coach Daniel Cook. “I thought our girls executed our game plan well. I think we ran about nine different defenses in the first quarter and throughout the game. We did everything we could to keep them off balance. At the end of the day, I think you see why Annie Hughes is going to play at Auburn. She was just kind of too much for us.”
Pisgah shot 39 percent (24 of 61) from the field, but it offset its shooting woes with 19 offensive rebounds that resulted in 20 second-chance points. Pisgah also scored 17 points off of 18 Glencoe turnovers.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to find a way to overcome when we’re not playing as well as we normally do,” Ellison said. “I’m proud of each one of them for stepping up. Had a lot of people contribute to the win. It was another hard fought win. We’re in a little bit of a fog, we’re not able to put a whole game together all the sudden. [Hughes] did an excellent job of sort of getting our pace going, because we’re in a fog, not exactly clicking on all cylinders right now. I think she did a good job of getting us going.”
Hughes, the regional MVP, closed with a game-high 32 points along three assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Molly Heard, an all-regional pick, totaled 14 points and four rebounds while Law had six points, five rebounds and two steals.
Lauren Cole scored 19 points for Glencoe (21-10) while Anna Beth Giles had nine and Abby Vice and Aubrey Gray had eight each.