Albemarle women topple East Wilkes in Sweet 16; Baldwin 2nd all-time scorer for AHS

Published 9:50 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

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Two upwards trends have been prevalent this season for the Albemarle women’s basketball team.

The Bulldogs have jumped out to big leads early for most of its games and junior point guard Amari Baldwin has moved her way steadily up the program’s all-time scoring list.

Albemarle continued both trends Tuesday night in the third round of the NCHSAA 1A state playoffs, getting out to an early lead while Baldwin passed another on the school’s all-time list in a 57-42 home win over the fifth-seeded East Wilkes Cardinals.

Baldwin led the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (25-3) with 33 points and passed Kyleigh McLendon for second in career points in school history. Baldwin now has 1,667 points and trails Akela Branch (1,805) in the program’s all-time standings.

Albemarle junior Amari Baldwin breaks away for the layup in Tuesday’s win versus East Wilkes. (Photo by Charles Curcio/staff)

The junior scored 13 of her points in the fourth quarter, shooting 7-of-12 at the foul line. For the game, Baldwin was 13-of-18 from the line.

Jasmine Brown and Kai Spencer added seven points each for Albemarle, while Bianca Robinson returned from an ankle injury several games ago to the starting lineup, scoring six.

Having Robinson back in the lineup, Baldwin said, gave her and her teammates motivation.

Payton Spicer led East Wilkes (23-5) with 14 points while Kyleigh Price added nine, all from the free throw line.

Albemarle opened the game with a 10-0 run over the first 3:38 of the first quarter. The Cardinals made just two shots from the field and trailed after one quarter 20-5.

“We came out aggressive, and we knew we wanted to stay aggressive the whole game,” Baldwin said.

The Bulldogs led 25-13 at halftime, but East Wilkes opened the third with a 7-0 run. The Cardinals got within six midway through the quarter before losing starting center Kiersten Johnson to an ankle injury.

Albemarle pushed the lead back to 14 points at the end of the third, 40-26, and led by double digits the rest of the way.

“At this point, you’re playing against really good teams,” Albemarle head coach Eric Davis said. “For us, we knew our usually disciplined defense would hold up. Offensively, I knew if we could execute a little bit and get off to a fast start, by the third quarter, we could hold on.”

Davis said Robinson was not yet 100%.

“She did a heck of a job,” he added. “She gave us two good boosts and I’m very proud of her.”

He credited the Cardinals’ defense, saying the team’s game plan coming out was good.

Albemarle travels Friday night to take on the number-one seed in the 1A West, the Mountain Heritage Cougars (27-2). The Cougars advanced to Friday’s Elite Eight with a 74-44 win versus No. 8 Hiwassee Dam.

The winner of Friday’s game will play either No. 2 Bishop McGuinness or No. 3 Cherokee Tuesday in the 1A Western Region finals.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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