ATHENS — Jacksonville has punched its ticket to the regional quarterfinal round of the Class 5A state playoffs after defeating North Forney 63-46 on Friday night at Trinity Valley Community College Cardinal Gym.
The No. 13-ranked Maidens (25-8) will do battle with Midlothian, who upset Royse City 62-53 on Friday.
Jacksonville and Midlothian (19-10) will play at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Eustace High School.
This will be Jacksonville's first trip to the regional quarterfinals since stopping Bryan Rudder 45-39 in the regional version of the Elite Eight nine years ago.
Leading by only eight points, 33-25, at halftime, the Maidens finished the Lady Falcons off in the third frame.
Jacksonville opened the second half by getting back-to-back triples to increase the margin to 14 points with 5:08 to go in the quarter.
The Maidens' Grace Abercrombie dropped the first 3-pointer in from the right wing with 7:12 to go in the third and Alexis Calderon followed that up with another three from the right side.
Jacksonville played lights-out defensively in the third by holding North Forney to just five points, while adding 14 points to its total to take a commanding 47-30 lead into the fourth segment.
“I knew if we could just play Jacksonville basketball that we had a good chance to win,” Jacksonville head girls basketball coach Lynn Nabi said. “This team has prided itself on its defense this year, and it really showed in the third quarter against a good North Forney team.”
Calderon, the feisty Jacksonville point guard, scored nine of her 14 points in the third to lift her team offensively, as the Lady Falcons seemed to focus more on trying to shut down Abercrombie, who tossed in 16 of her 22 points in the first half.
“I knew that I had to step up for the team,” Calderon said. “They were doing some thing different in defending Grace, so I knew I had to come through for us.”
Calderon played as close to perfect a quarter offensively as could be expected, as she played within herself, kept her composure, and seemed to make all the right decisions on when to drive in to the basket for two points and when to pass it off to an open teammate.
“(North Forney) was playing us tough; we just played better, especially in the third quarter,” she said.
Tami Tucker added 14 points for Jacksonville, with Trinya Matlock scoring seven points, Ka'Lessia Anderson knocking down four and Tashera Gipson putting in two.
Leading rebounders for Jacksonville was Anderson (9) and Gipson (7).
North Forney, the runner-up out of District 13-5A, ends the year with a 17-12 record.