Few basketball teams generate as many points off their defense as do the Chapel Hill High girls’ basketball team.
Last week’s 3A Eastern Regionals is a great example.
The Tigers scored 34 points off Eastern Wayne’s 36 turnovers in a 57-47 semifinal victory. The next night, they scored 27 points off 27 Rockingham County turnovers in the 61-41 regional final win.
“That’s been our philosophy all year,” Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said. “Defense creates easy offense. That’s why we like to play that pressure defense – to get layups.”
But there are different ways to build a team that contends for a state championship.
Southeast Raleigh, which plays for the 4A girls title, relies on star power; Garner, which plays for the 4A boys crown, depends on balance, on and off the court; and Chapel Hill, which is in the 3A girls title game, wins with defense. Each team has a different personality.
Winning with defense
The leader of Chapel Hill’s pressure defense is Tamia Eatmon, who has 123 of the Tigers’ 458 steals. She also has 127 of Chapel Hill’s 431 assists and is the first player under Norris to record a triple double on points, assists and steals.
“Tamia has been the catalyst for our team in setting the tempo,” Norris said. “Making other teams play at a faster pace than they want to works to our advantage.”
Eatmon joins Raziyah Farrington and Jessica Wall as three-year letter winners. They have helped Chapel Hill win 113 of 120 games during their varsity careers and reach the championship game each year. They beat Hickory for the 3A title in 2014.
“Last year, when (center) Catherine Romaine and (guard) Jamella Smith graduated, a lot of people thought that would be the end of Chapel Hill,” Norris said. “But these three seniors have accomplished so much at Chapel Hill and have done such a great job with their leadership.”
Farrington, the MVP of last year’s state championship victory, said her teammates have unfinished business.
“In the beginning of the year, our goal was to win a second state championship,” Farrington said. “That’a still what we’re trying to do.”
Keeping it loose
Garner’s boys’ team has had opportunities to be nervous over the past three weeks. But the Trojans have the ability to not get caught up in the moment.
Garner coach Eddie Gray made the point of keeping things loose in the Trojans’ first team activity back from the first snow break (a shoot-around session the day of their playoff opener), which delayed the start of the playoffs.
“I was not nervous during the break and I thought about how much the kids feed off of you as a coach,” Gray said. “So I just told them to go out and play. ‘If you just go play, we’ll be fine.’ We were loose from that game on.”
Garner’s lineup features three players with roughly the same scoring average. Sophomore shooting guard Thomas Allen leads the Trojans with 17.4 points a game, and senior Julius Barnes and sophomore forward Jashaun Smith both average 14.
Consistent bench contributions from players such as Alex Reed (the Eastern Regional MVP after a 24-point, 12-rebound game against Millbrook), Andrew Abrom (valuable minutes against South Central Pitt), Javonte Sims ( extensive minutes without a turnover against South Central), Parrish Tinsley (a defensive stopper against Millbrook) and others have made the difference in tight games.
“One of the reasons we’re here is the kids on the team understand what their role is,” Gray said. “They don’t get caught up in who has what points or who’s on the court when, those types of things. They just go out and play as a team.”
Experience helps. Barnes has played in more games than any player in Garner history. He has played well in the clutch and has more than 1,000 points and 450 assists in his career.
D. Clay Best
Southeast Raleigh’s girls will match star power with Charlotte Myers Park. Both teams feature pairs of major Division I recruits – Amber Richardson (N.C. State) and Jade Phillips (Syracuse) of Southeast; Rydeiah Rogers (N.C. State) and Aliyah Mazyck (Southern California) of Myers Park.
And there is talent throughout the rest of their lineups.
Southeast (26-3) survived a extremely tough nonconference schedule and what the team would characterize as just as tough, if not tougher, preseason.
“We tried to make the preseason as difficult as we could,” said Southeast coach Nicole Meyers. “We put a toll on their bodies, pushed them like they’ve never been pushed before. And I think at the end of the day it’s that conditioning level that sets us apart.”
Southeast pulled away in the second half of both of its regional round games, relying on Richardson (the regional MVP) and Phillips, who averages 16 points and 10 rebounds, to show the way.
The addition of freshman point guard Jada McMillian has added to the Bulldogs star power. McMillian has given Southeast a consistent scoring threat from the perimeter.
“Jada has never been afraid on the basketball court,” Meyers said. “She’s started all but two or three games and does not play like a freshman. She has a level of composure you don’t often see.”
The Bulldogs will need all of the right mix of star power, toughness and big game experience to knock off the Mustangs, who are ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation.
D. Clay Best
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)