The worries Charlotte Myers Park had about rebounding the basketball during Saturday’s 4A girls’ state championship game turned out to be unfounded.
The Mustangs more than doubled Southeast Raleigh’s rebound total and rode a legendary performance by junior forward Rydeiah Rogers to a 61-46 victory and the school’s first girls’ basketball state championship.
Southeast, which finished the season with a 26-3 record, was looking for its second state championship (1999).
“I came into the game worried about the rebounding,” said Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson. “Considering their size, I thought we rebounded very well. D.D. (Rydeiah) and Stuart Ayer were exceptional with their rebounding.”
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The nationally ranked Mustangs (30-1) were just that, pulling down 55 rebounds to Southeast’s 26. Myers Park had 22 offensive rebounds and didn’t give up any second-chance points while rolling up 25 of its own.
Combine those numbers and Southeast’s 30 percent shooting (17-of-56) effort from the field and the Bulldogs faced a monumental task, especially after falling behind 14-2.
“The key was definitely rebounding,” said Southeast coach Nicole Meyers. “We’re always the smaller team in the post, but it hasn’t really been an issue.”
Rogers was the finals MVP with 25 points and 20 rebounds.
“D.D., she did it all: rebounds, she scored,” said senior teammate Saadia Timpton. “She even got hit in the eye, couldn’t see one time and that didn’t slow her down.”
Ayer had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Southeast’s players attributed their early struggles to nerves.
“I felt like some of us were playing timid early in the game,” said senior point guard Alexus Hicks. “We weren’t playing our kind of defense and that hurt us too.”
Added fellow senior Tiffany McCarter: “I felt like we came out scared in the first five minutes.”
The Bulldogs finally got over those early issues to start the second half with Amber Richardson and Hicks nailing 3-pointers to close within 33-27. Hicks had two other 3s rattle in and out in the next two minutes of play.
“Shots that we normally make were just not falling,” Meyers said.
The Mustangs held Southeast to four points over the final 6:19 of the third quarter, running their lead back to 12 points. Myers Park led by as many as 20 in the fourth.
McCarter led Southeast with 18 points, while Hicks had 10. Jade Phillips had seven points and eight rebounds.
“I’m thankful for my teammates,” said McCarter, one of two Southeast senior starters, along with Hicks. “This is the highest I’ve scored in the last four years and the highest our team has scored. I’ll just remember working so hard with them to get better.”