Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers said her team has to do the little things right if the Bulldogs are to upset Charlotte Myers Park in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls basketball game on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Meyers, and Garner boys coach Eddie Gray and Chapel Hill girls coach Sherry Norris, have stressed to their teams this week during game preparations to not look at the big picture, but to focus on executing things that they have done all year.
For Garner, a key is getting defensive rebounds and starting fast breaks. Chapel Hill will focus on defensive pressure. And Southeast’s Meyers is stressing that the players need to box out, move their feet on defense and execute.
Back to basics
Myers Park beat Southeast 61-46 in the 2014 title game and Meyers was so distraught that she had not watched the game film until this week.
“I knew we just didn’t play well and it made me sick,” she said.
But when she broke the film down, the Bulldogs’ biggest shortcoming in the game was rebounding. Myers Park outrebounded Southeast by 30 rebounds. The Mustangs had a 25-0 advantage in scoring off second chances.
To prevent a repeat in Saturday’s game at Carmichael Arena, Meyers has talked about rebounding fundamentals – it is more important where your feet are on the floor than how high they are in the air.
“We’ve got to get position, box out and go for the ball,” Meyers said. “The tendency is to concentrate on the ball. You’ve got to find you’re man, get position and then look for the ball.
“It goes back to discipline, the discipline to do the little things correctly.”
Meyers said there was no lack of effort in last year’s loss, but that the team didn’t execute the same way it had most of the season. She said the team wasn’t pleased with the way it played in the finals last year.
“We know what to expect. It all boils down to what Southeast Raleigh does,” she said.
Meyers believes this year’s team is mentally tough.
The Bulldogs played without three starters, including N.C. State recruit Amber Richardson, through part of the season.
“We dropped some games, but we didn’t make excuses or feel sorry for ourselves,” she said. “We knew we had to play better.”
The same is true for in the championship game.
Garner must rebound
Garner (27-1) loves to play a transition game, while Charlotte Kell (28-1) thrives at controlling the pace and prevailing in lower-scoring games.
In order to run, Garner, which averages 80.9 points a game, has to rebound.
Kell allows only 49.7 points a game and can slow down the Trojans by controlling the backboards.
“When I first started coaching, I went to every clinic I could. I learned a lot from Dean Smith about how important it is to set the pace of the game,” said Garner’s Gray. “You dictate the pace of the game with your defense. For us, that means getting a defensive rebound, making a good outlet pass and trying to score as many transition baskets as we can.”
Trojan players are drilled on the importance of that first pass, both seeing the open man and putting the ball where that man is going to be once the ball gets to him.
Kell wants to keep teams off of the offensive glass foremost, then take its time getting the ball into the offensive mode after a defensive rebound.
“We’re not a big team, we’re 6(-foot-)5, 6-3, in the post,” said Knights coach Michael Craft. “But we’re a really good team rebounding team.”
D. Clay Best
The same, but different
Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris and Hickory coach Barbara Helms agree on two things about Saturday's state championship game in Carmichael Arena: one, handling and applying defensive pressure will be critical and, two, no one should expect a repeat of last year.
In last year's 3A girls basketball final, a pairing of undefeated teams in the Smith Center, Chapel Hill bolted to an initial 28-6 lead and ended up winning 69-56. The Tigers scored 34 points off the Tornadoes' 24 turnovers – almost half of Chapel Hill's points.
Hickory (26-0) enters this game on a defensive tear, holding opponents this year to just 26.7 points per game. Last weekend, No. 1-seeded Hickory held No. 2 Monroe Weddington to just 13 points in winning the NCHSAA West Region final by a 43-point margin.
“Traditionally, all of my teams have been defensively oriented, but this group is at whole different level defensively,” Helms said this week. “We take pride in that.”
Appearing in the NCHSAA championship game for a third straight year, Chapel Hill (24-2) has held opponents to 38.2 points game.
“I don't think the game this year will be anything like the game last year,” Norris said. “We're a different team this year, while Hickory is basically the same.
“They are extremely quick. They play a tough pressure defense like we do. We're gong to have to rebound well to get a fast break going.”
Four of Hickory's starters from the 2014 final are back, led by leading scorer Yaz Hannah (21.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Danasia Witherspoon (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and top rebounder Sadasia Tipps (7.3 ppf, 8.0 rpg). Tipps, Hickory's Most Outstanding Player in the 2014 final, has recorded eight double-doubles this year.
Playing together since they were fifth-graders, Hannah and Witherspoon are four-year starters at Hickory, leading the red Tornadoes to cumulative record of 93-6.
Similarly, Chapel Hill is led by the senior triumvirate of Raziyah Farrington (16.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Tamia Eatmon (9.0 ppg, 4.9 apg) and Jessica Wall (8.7 ppg, 2.6 spg), who've helped the Tigers go 113-7 over four years.
“I never would have thought before the season started that we'd be playing my senior year in a third state final,” Wall said. “It still feels unreal, but I'm happy to be going back.”
NCHSAA Basketball Championships
At the Smith Center
Noon: 2A girls, Kinston (19-10) vs. Wilkes Central (25-4)
2:30 p.m.: 2A boys, Kinston (25-4) vs. East Lincoln (24-0)
5 p.m.: 4A girls, Southeast Raleigh (26-3) vs. Charlotte Myers Park (28-1)
7:30 p.m.: 4A boys, Garner (27-1) vs. Charlotte Ardrey Kell (28-1)
At Carmichael Arena
Noon: 1A girls, Riverside (Martin County) vs. Winston-Salem Prep (23-3)
2:30 p.m.: 1A boys, East Carteret (27-2) vs. Winston-Salem Prep (20-7)
5 p.m.: 3A girls, Chapel Hill (24-2) vs. Hickory (26-0)
7:30 p.m.: 3A boys, Fayetteville Sanford (26-3) vs. Gastonia Ashbrook (23-3)