Four times this season the St. David’s and Cary Christian girls basketball teams met in close battles decided by margins of 4, 4, 6 and 1 points.
But when the Eastern Plains Independence Conference rivals faced off in the first round of the state playoffs, St. David’s ran away with a 62-36 win that was one-sided from the opening tip Thursday night.
With the first-round victory the Warriors advanced to the quarterfinals in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament. However, with the recent weather having postponed the first-round game from Tuesday to Thursday, the quarterfinals have been pushed back to Thursday next week. Eighth-seeded St. David’s will travel to face top-seeded Asheville Carolina Day.
“The difference this time was turnovers,” St. David’s coach Alan Hinnant said. “Rivalry games are always physical, and we had too many turnovers when we played them the other four times. We didn’t have nearly as many turnovers and we finished our possessions.”
Tiffany Bartholomew led St. David’s (22-3) with 26 points. Sophie Sheats added 19 and Melanie Park 10. For Cary Christian (15-13), Grace Smith was the only player in double figures with 15 points.
In the previous meetings, the rivals split their conference games while St. David’s won a holiday tournament contest and the conference tournament final.
The Warriors coped with no school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the game delayed from Tuesday to Thursday with what can be called a 21st century brand of team bonding.
“We were group texting to bond and stay mentally prepared,” Sheats explained. “One of us would send a message that all of us would receive. We were sitting at home anxious to play. We were ready when we were finally able to play some basketball.”
Both coaches were disappointed they were matched in the first round with No. 8 seed St. David’s against No. 9 Cary Christian. They were originally scheduled to play just three days after St. David’s edged Cary Christian 49-48 in the EPIC tournament final in Southern Pines at The O’Neal School’s gym.
“I was in the seeding meeting and that’s the best we could get,” Cary Christian coach Shelly Holmes said. “But we could have done our job and won a couple more games in the season to get a better seed.”
St. David’s led 14-6 after the first quarter and extended the lead to 28-6 at halftime when Cary Christian was scoreless in the second period. The Knights’ frigid shooting and struggles to get into their offense made the 21-degree temperature outside at game time seem toasty.
“I don’t know why we didn’t show up,” Holmes said. “We showed up ugly the first quarter and we couldn’t get any momentum at all. And then the fouls hurt us.
“We needed to finish some of our games stronger, and I thought we could have gone further (in the state playoffs). But it was a great season, and I’m sad for our seniors it’s over.”