Ashleigh Turner saved two of her best games all season for Carolina Forest’s biggest rival.
The senior scored 27 points Friday, including 13 during a huge third quarter, to push the Panthers past Conway 47-44 and into the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Her night, however, almost never developed as it did. Turner was whistled for two early fouls and spent much of the first half on the sidelines.
“When I was sitting on the bench, I thought ‘No more dumb fouls,’ ” Turner said. “We knew this was our play-in. We had to work hard, and we came out and did our thing.”
Turner, who dropped 26 on the Tigers during the teams’ Jan. 21 meeting, more than did her part in the second half.
The effort was exactly what the Panthers needed.
Had Carolina Forest lost – courtesy of West Florence’s win over South Florence – the Panthers would have been bumped down to the region’s fourth-place spot and eliminated from the playoffs.
It would have ended the high school careers of Turner and classmate Marisa Runyon, who earlier this season scored her 1,000th-career point.
Instead, the duo made sure they had at least one more game. Many of Turner’s third-quarter points came off single-handed overhead passes from Runyon, the softball star who has already signed with college powerhouse Alabama.
“That’s a good thing,” Turner said of their teamwork. “That’s the biggest play of all. Once she passes it, I know I have to score. I know if she looks at me, she’s going to pass it.”
Said coach Stacey Hughes: “It gives her a little more opportunity in man for her to go one-on-one. She has enough speed to go to the basket. That’s another reason she does so well against them. … We can loosen her up. She’s got a good nose for the hole.”
That combination helped the Panthers overcome a halftime deficit. Runyon also finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and a pair of blocks.
It also ended Conway’s season. The Tigers fell a few points short in the three-team playoff, and West Florence was awarded the third and final spot for the postseason, according coaches from both teams.
Carolina Forest, a team that started the season with more than its fair share of losses, won some crucial games at the right time. Friday’s victory over Conway was a perfect example.
“It’s a little crazy; it’s hard to wrap our head around it,” Hughes said. “We’re not the most talented team. But I’ve got some great kids.
“Our region has a lot of parity. Anyone in our region can beat each other on any given night.”
• CAROLINA FOREST (47) – Ashleigh Turner 27, Marisa Runyon 11, Erica Gazzani 4, Cheyenne Pyles 2, Ashley Cole 2, Cristina Wright 1.• CONWAY (44) – Zakera Chadmon 14, Briana Steele 9, Lashonda Greene 8, Sierra Griffin 5, Ashiera Williams 3, Aliyah Alston 2, Janecia Hemingway 2, Tierra Spain 1.
• Records: CF 7-15 overall, 4-4 Region VI-AAAA, CON 7-14, 4-4.