By Zach Shugan
MILTON, Ga. — A competitive rivalry has formed in recent years between the often-talented girls basketball teams from Cambridge and Johns Creek. As far as the 2020-21 chapter in the rivalry goes, the Bears have had the upper hand over their region foe.
Cambridge (13-8, 8-5) picked up a 63-58 win at home Friday night over Johns Creek (14-9, 9-4), defeating the Gladiators for the second time this season.
“It has become a pretty good rivalry. It’s always hard-fought,” Cambridge head coach Lesley Broadwell said.
Senior Angelina Cofrancesco became Cambridge’s all-time leading scorer in the win, posting 23 points in addition to 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Cofrancesco entered the game trailing 2015 graduate Ali LoPiccolo by four points for the program’s all-time scoring record. Following her performance against Johns Creek, Cofrancesco took over the record with 1,038 points scored and counting. The senior will have at least two more chances to add to her total before her high school career comes to a close.
“’Ang’ has given 100% since she was a freshman,” Broadwell said. “To see the hard work pay off for her after four years, it’s special. For it to happen on our home floor, that also made it special. I was happy for her that we could celebrate that tonight. I’m really super proud of her.”
Johns Creek entered the contest with a two-game lead over Cambridge in the Region 7-6A standings. While the win wasn’t enough for the Bears to tie or jump the Gladiators in the standings, it put a significant dent in their lead. Plus, it provided a jolt of confidence for the Bears as they enter a crucial stretch of the season.
“We needed a little confidence boost,” Broadwell said. “We’ve lost some tough, close ones lately, and we felt like we really needed to get this one under our belt.”
Johns Creek took the advantage in a tightly-contested first quarter, leading by two points entering the second quarter. Paris Miller scored 7 points in the opening period, a sign of things to come for the Gladiators. The junior guard finished with a game-high 32 points, her second 30-point performance of the week.
Cambridge took control in the second quarter, as Cofrancesco and Jordynn Dudley began heating up for the Bears. Cambridge took a seven-point lead, 32-25, into halftime, as Cofrancesco finished the half with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, and Dudley added 11 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist.
Johns Creek opened the second half on a 14-6 run, as sophomore Nylah Nuri hit three three-pointers to spark the comeback. The run gave the Gladiators a small lead halfway through the third quarter, but it was short-lived. Cambridge finished the quarter up by four points, 47-43.
Cofrancesco and the Bears were able to hold off Miller and the Gladiators in the fourth quarter to snap a two-game losing streak and pick up a pivotal win over a team right above them in the region standings.
Both Cambridge and Johns Creek have one game remaining in the regular season. If Cambridge wins at Riverwood (8-11, 5-8) and Johns Creek loses to Sequoyah (17-5, 10-3), then the Bears will jump the Gladiators in the region standings and earn a three seed in the region tournament. The Gladiators would finish fourth in this scenario, though they automatically finish third in the region if they defeat the Chiefs in their final game.
The top four teams in the region tournament make it to the 6A state tournament in the order in which they finish.
“We’re in a good spot,” Broadwell said. “We know we’re in a tough region, but we’re trying to play our best here at the end and be ready for whoever we match up with in region to get out. This is a good step forward.”
Angelina Cofrancesco (Sr.) – 23 pts, 9 reb, 4 asst
Jordynn Dudley (So.) – 22 pts, 1 reb, 1 asst
Ella Lewis (So.) – 8 pts, 1 reb
Sydney Granby (Jr.) – 6 pts, 11 reb
Grace Barrett (So.) – 4 pts, 7 reb, 1 asst, 1 blk
Hailey Toeppner (Sr.) – 1 reb, 2 asst
Johns Creek Gladiators
Paris Miller (Jr.) – 32 pts, 4 reb, 3 asst
Nylah Nuri (So.) – 19 pts, 6 reb, 3 asst
Evelina Davlakou (Jr.) – 6 pts, 2 reb, 4 asst
Audrey Ekoue-Bla (Fr.) – 3 reb, 1 asst
Kennedy McWilliams (Jr.) – 2 reb, 1 asst
Meredith Hillam (So.) – 4 reb
Jordan Sherman (Sr.) – 1 reb