North Pitt’s TyQuishia Gainer stole an inbounds pass and made a layup with 6.8 seconds left to help the Panthers to their second N.C. High School Athletic Association girls basketball championship on Saturday, 68-65 against East Davidson for the 2A title.
North Pitt (30-1) had just missed two free throws and knocked the ball out of bounds on a free throw when East Davidson (30-2) attempted to roll the ball upcourt. Gainer alertly ran back to the play, took the ball and was fouled on her layup attempt.
Gainer missed her free throw, giving the Eagles one more chance. But North Pitt’s Ta’Shada Joseph, who hit a crucial 3-pointer with 25 seconds to go to break a tied game, picked off the pass to seal the win.
“We did panic, I’ll be honest with you, but in the end we pulled it together,” Joseph said.
It was a sweet victory for the Panthers, who entered the postseason without head coach Neal Carr, who was suspended after a season-ending brawl with conference rival Farmville Central. Two North Pitt players were suspended for fighting, one shy of the mark needed for an automatic NCHSAA ban from the playoffs.
After the trophy ceremony, the players found Carr in the stands and each gave him a hug as they exited the court.
“All it did was brought us together even more,” interim coach Yolanda Bowden said.
The Panthers went cold in the second quarter – 2 of 14 from the field, while East Davidson (which was 3 of 17 in the first quarter) connected on six of eight 3-pointers to come alive and take a 36-23 lead into halftime.
East Davidson (30-2), led by 6-foot-2 senior Bailey Plummer, kept the Panthers out of the paint in the second quarter. Plummer is the NCHSAA’s record-holder for blocks in a game (21), season (238) and career (876).
But North Pitt stopped settling for outside shots, where it was 0-10 from 3-point land in the first three quarters, and got it going in transition. Championship MVP Nyjanique Langley (20 points, 10 rebounds) started getting hot, and North Pitt MOP Dorian Sharp (21 points, 14 rebounds) attacked the offensive glass.
East Davidson hit crucial 3-pointers to keep it a one-possession game in the final minute. Senior point guard Madi Hallman (19 points, 5-of-10 3-pointers) was named her team’s MOP.
The Panthers were making their second appearance in the title game, the first since winning the crown in 1972. East Davidson’s only previous appearance was winning the 2008 state championship.
North Pitt’s Sarah Searcy was the recipient of her team’s NCHSAA sportsmanship award.