ALBANY-- After his team's 55-51 loss against Northside, Columbus in Wednesday night's second round of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs, Westover girls basketball coach Lewis Smith skimmed the Northside roster and pointed out hope for the future.
"Two or three years ago, they were us, they were this young," said Smith, who started three sophomores, a junior and a senior Wednesday night.
But in this game, however, Westover's youthful talent was not enough to make up for inexperience as it was outscored, 26-9, in the second quarter and could never recover. Turnovers -- 15 before halftime and 22 for the game -- created easy baskets for Northside and left Smith's team trying to dig themselves out of a double-digit deficit most of the second half.
In the fourth quarter, though, it appeared at one point that energetic and youthful talent would carry Westover to victory as sophomore DyTiesha Dunson scored 16 of her game-high 26 during the final quarter.
Dunson was too distraught to talk after the game, so others spoke of her effort.
"That's our go-to girl," said Smith, whose 1-AAA champion girls finished the season, 28-4. "When we needed her to step up, she did that."
Westover freshman Kahler Fletcher, who scored a layup with less than a minute left, moved her team late within four points, also said Dunson was the spark.
"She was very valuable," Fletcher said. "She did all she could. She wanted to win like the rest of us."
Dunson gave a preview of things to come at the end of the third quarter, making a layup as time expired to only narrow the deficit to nine points, 36-27. That deficit, for the most point, was created in the second quarter by Northside's Khamiyah Crawford and Zakia Williams, who finished the game with 15 points each.
What made the second quarter even more dynamic was that Northside trailed, 9-2, after the opening quarter.
"We created some turnovers during the second quarter, and more importantly, we finished off on them with baskets," Northside coach Candace Turner said.
That likely was a by-product of Turner's players stepping up their intensity after the first quarter.
"We chose to go hard and keep taking the ball to the rim," Crawford said. "We wanted this game really bad."
Crawford, who made two second-quarter 3's -- the latter giving her team a 15-13 lead with 5:35 left in the first half -- was only part of the surge. Teammate Tiera White, while falling backwards, attempted a bankshot inside the paint that went in for a 26-18 lead at the 1:03 mark. Northside gained its biggest lead of 12 points for the first time at the 3:30 mark when Alexis McGhee scored. McGhee finished with 10 points.
Dunson, however, scored on her layup that ended the third, setting the stage for Westover's comeback. Dunson made two free throws, moving her team within, 49-43. Then, sophomore Cessily Colwell stole a ball that led to Fletcher's layup and brought the Lady Patriots within 49-45 with 57.2 seconds remaining.
The deficit never got smaller, though, leaving Smith to look toward 2010-11 with mixed emotions.
"Nothing is guaranteed, even next year," Smith said. "Hopefully, one day we will be where (Northside) is."