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Ledford faces Harding in region semifinal

Ledford's Mackenzie Cranford (left) fights for the ball against North Iredell's Mariah Johnson. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

Sometimes you get a second chance even if it comes a year later.

Ledford’s girls are set to face defending state champion Harding, the team that knocked the Panthers out in the second round last year, in the 3-A Western Regional semifinals on Thursday at UNC-Greensboro’s Fleming Gymnasium.

Game time is 8:30 p.m.

“It’s nice to be back,” said Ledford coach John Ralls, who has four state championships and 701 wins with the Panthers on his resume. “They’re back. It’s going to be a good opportunity. That’s how we have to look at it. They’re tough. We’re going to have to play well to have a chance to win.

And the Rams are returning the favor.

“Ledford is a great team,” said Harding coach Anthony Jones. “They work hard. We saw them last year on the way here. It’s going to be a battle. They’re going to be prepared for us and we’re going to prepared for them.”

Ledford (26-3) earned its spot in Thursday’s game by beating A.L. Brown 51-28, Berry Academy 57-34 and North Iredell 46-39.

Harding (21-4) advanced to the regionals by defeating Central Cabarrus 60-36, Southwestern Randolph 82-69 and Carson 48-32.

While the Rams might be considered the favorite, they scored three close wins over Berry Academy, the team Ledford beat handily in the second round of the playoffs, so there is plenty of reason for the Panthers to be optimistic.

But they have to figure out how to stop a Harding team that has multiple weapons.

“Legally, I don’t know,” Ralls cracked. “We’re going to have to take care of the basketball and not give them scoring opportunities. We don’t want to turn the ball over where they get it out and they’re jailbreaking. Defensively, we have to play as good as we ever have.”

The Rams are led by a quartet of double-figure scorers. Myicha Drakeford, a 5-9 junior forward, is averaging 15.8 points and seven rebounds; 5-11 junior center Brianna Hamrick is averaging 13.1 points and 8.9 rebounds; 5-5 senior point guard Ralisha Currence is averaging 11.6 points, 5.4 assists and two steals; and 5-9 senior forward Abrea Harris is averaging 10.8 points.

Harding’s interior defense is imposing. The Rams have blocked 182 shots.

But that’s not all.

“We’ve got heart,” Jones said. “One of the things that makes us different is we know what it takes. We’ve been here before. We’ve got a group of seniors who are determined, literally determined, to make this happen again.”

Ledford will counter with a lineup led by 5-11 senior wing player Emmalee Thomas, who is averaging 13.7 points a game.

Courtney Callicutt, a 5-8 junior, is averaging 12.6 points while 5-11 senior Leigh Ann Midkiff is averaging 8.5 points and 7.6 rebounds and 5-6 junior guard Brie Grier is averaging eight points.

“We’re balanced,” Ralls said. “That could be a good thing. We’ve got to play up to the opportunity.”

The winner will face the Tuscola-Franklin winner in Saturday’s regional championship game.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or