Ledford girls upend South, move to tournament finals

Ledford’s Emmalee Thomas shoots over South Davidson’s Madison Sigmon during the NewBridge Christmas Classic at Ledford on Thursday. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

WALLBURG | ‘Tis the season of giving.

Unless you are Ledford’s girls basketball squad, who have been downright Grinch-like hosts in their first two post-Christmas games on their home court.

Utilizing a suffocating defense and sizable height advantage, Ledford collected its seventh straight win Thursday with a 49-39 victory over South Davidson in the semifinals of the NewBridge Bank Christmas Classic.

Emmalee Thomas keyed Ledford’s victory, scoring nine of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Panthers (10-2) into Friday night’s tournament finals, where they will face Southeast Guilford, a 52-44 winner over East Davidson, in the night’s other semifinal matchup.

Brianna Grier scored all six of her points from the free throw line in final two minutes and Ledford made 10-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

After a sluggish start by both squads, South took an 8-5 lead following back-to-back 3-pointers by Madison Sigmon and Addie Grubb in the first quarter. Courtney Callicut’s runner in the lane cut the South lead to one heading into the second period.

Thomas’ 3-pointer from the right baseline to open the second quarter erased South’s lead and Ledford never trailed again as South continued to struggle shooting over the taller, more physical Panthers.

The Wildcats clawed their way back to a tie at the half following a frantic 15 seconds in which South converted three consecutive steals into six points, ending with Madison Sigmon’s layup at the first half buzzer.

South coach Fonda Jackson said that Ledford’s size advantage was a factor that the Wildcats just could not overcome. “They are just bigger and it makes a difference when you can’t see over (the defender). It’s tougher to go against a team that is well-structured (offensively) and is bigger bodied,” Jackson added.

Ledford’s press forced three consecutive South turnovers to start the second half and the Panthers ran crisper offensive sets, pushing their lead back to six, midway through the third quarter. Madison Sigmon’s layup for South, the last of her game-high 20 points, closed out scoring in the third as Ledford took a three-point cushion into the fourth, 32-29.

In the fourth quarter, Thomas took charge for the Panthers, scoring their first seven points of the period, keying the Panthers’ win, a point not lost on Ledford coach John Ralls. “We did a better job in the second half. Emmalee was curling coming off some screens and taking it to the basket. She had a shorter player on her and did a nice job rolling to the basket,” Ralls said.

In addition to Thomas, Leigh Ann Midkiff added 12 points and Callicut netted 11 as Ledford placed three scorers in double figures.

Madison Sigmon’s 20 points led South and Madi Beeson nailed two fourth quarter 3-pointers to finish with 7 points.

The Ledford-Southeast Guilford championship game tips off Friday at 6:30 p.m.

South is back in action Wednesday night as it travels to Spencer to play North Rowan in a Yadkin Valley Conference tilt.