RALEIGH — Brianna Hamrick had a game-high 16 points and 11 rebounds while Abrea Harris provided 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds to lead Charlotte Harding to a 56-52 victory Saturday over Chapel Hill in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A championship game at Reynolds Coliseum.
Myicha Drakeford chipped in 11 points for Harding, which hit just 21 of 54 shots from the field (38.9 percent), but outrebounded Chapel Hill 46-38.
Harris was named the game’s MVP for the second straight season. Hamrick was named the Eastern region’s most outstanding player as Harding became the first Mecklenburg County girls team to win back-to-back state titles.
“These girls have done something that no one else has ever, ever done,” Harding coach Anthony Jones said. “Not 1A, 2A, 3A or 4A. None of them won back to back. Let’s enjoy this moment.”
Harding (24-4) had to fight off a second half rally from Chapel Hill (30-2).
Chapel Hill trailed 29-19 at halftime but was within three at 55-52 after two free throws by Autumn West with 1 minutes, 22 seconds to play. The Tigers missed their next three tries from the floor and Harding’s Ralisha Currance hit one of two free throws with 1:10 left to provide the game’s final point.
“I think we suffered from nerves in the first half,” Chapel Hill senior Laura Musalem said. “We were all excited about being here, and I don’t think we focused on what we should have.”
Harris, who transferred from Harding briefly last fall, scored six of her 11 points in the game’s last 7:07 to help Harding fend off Chapel Hill’s comeback.
“I appreciate the way team welcomed me back,” Harris said.
After dropping a pair of games during a Christmas tournament, Harding never lost in 2013 and reeled off 18 straight wins to close the year.
Despite a narrow 51-50 win over Tuscola in the state semifinals, Harding looked nearly unstoppable in the opening minutes of Saturday’s final.
Harding took advantage of Chapel Hill’s 3-for-21 shooting in the first quarter to grab an early lead. The Rams scored the last six points of the period to go ahead 17-8.
Harding shot 41 percents from the field and used 11 Chapel Hill turnovers in the first 16 minutes to take a 29-19 lead by halftime.
Sparked by a 3-pointer from Arianne Jacobs, Chapel Hill opened the second half with an 11-0 run to take the lead briefly. Jamella Smith capped the run with her second basket in 90 seconds to put the Tigers in front 30-29 with 5:05 left in the third quarter.
Harding answered with a 10-2 run over the next 4:20, keyed by back-to-back baskets from Hamrick, and never trailed again.
“We came back and outscored them (33-27) in the second half, but I think that first nine-point deficit was just too much for us to over come,” said Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris, who was back in the finals for the first time since her 1981 team won the 4A championship.
Catherine Romaine and Smith led Chapel Hill with 14 points apiece. Raziyah Farrington added 11.