Murphy's Brianna Moore looks for a open player Tuesday night, as Cherokee's Deante Toineeta sprints to catch up. Photo by KEVIN HENSLEY

LADY BULLDOGS: ’The Spark’ could light a fire in the Final Four

   Murphy – Both teams were nervous at the start of Tuesday’s game, and who could blame them?
   There were signs posted at the gym about fire codes and how many folks were going to be let in to watch the eighth battle in two years between Murphy and Cherokee’s girls.
   So you can forgive a few nerves for these young ladies.
   But once Brianna Moore checked into the game, she sent a message to her teammates loud and clear – everything is just fine.
   Moore used her reckless abandon style to notch two quick buckets to help push the first significant lead of the game for the Lady Bulldogs, who later went on a 19-0 run to virtually wrap up a berth in the Final Four before halftime.
   The bolts of lightning Moore brings to the floor when she arrives are palpable, as every steal, assist and high-speed collision are a blessing to the agile junior.
   Last year, during each game, Moore sat and watched her teammates play after transferring from Hiwassee Dam.
   She watched as the Lady Bulldogs were eliminated from the playoffs by one point at Mount Airy on a late basket last season.
   “This feels amazing for me. To be sitting there last year and not being able to do anything about it, it was very hard,” Moore said Tuesday night. “I worked hard all year in the gym constantly, and now I’m doing what I was wishing I was doing a year ago.
   “Now I get to play hard for (the girls), put my heart on the floor for them … that’s everything to me.”
   Moore added three assists and two steals to her seemingly unnoticed total of four points, but her teammates notice the energy she brings. That never-ending supply of juice fits right in with the team concept that Coach Ray Gutierrez has imparted to her the last three years.
   “Every practice we focus on hustle, and if I can’t do anything, I try to hustle,” Moore said. “They call me ‘The Spark’ whenever I go out there and set the whole game into motion sometimes, and that’s what I try to do.”
   When Murphy and Mount Airy meet again Saturday in the state semifinals, The Spark could light a fire that leads all the way to Raleigh.
   Matthew Osborne is the editor of the Cherokee Scout. Reach him at 837-5122, or follow on Twitter @cniozzy.

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