NCHSAA Basketball Championships:
Published: Mar 14, 2013 11:31 AM
Modified: Mar 11, 2013 03:51 PM
FAYETTEVILLE - When Chapel Hill lost by one point in last year’s NCHSAA 3A semifinals, coach Sherry Norris told her crying players to “remember the feeling.”
On Saturday, the tears flowing were of joy after the Tigers defeated Vanceboro West Craven 59-51 to advance to the state championship this Saturday on N.C. State’s campus.
Chapel Hill will be seeking its first state title since 1981.
“It’s taken us a long time to get back to this game,” said Norris, whose team won the Carolina-6 regular-season title and conference tournament for the third year in a row. “If we play our style of basketball, we’re hard to beat.”
Chapel Hill (30-1) will play the defending state 3A champion – Charlotte’s Harding University High School (23-4) – for the Class 4A state championship at 5 p.m. Saturday in N.C. State University’s Reynolds Coliseum.
Harding University defeated Waynesville Tuscola 51-50 in last Saturday’s West region final in Greensboro – the Lady Rams’ 17th straight win and their first of the playoffs that wasn’t by a double-digit margin. They defeated Burlington Williams 65-43 in last year’s final, the same team that edged Chapel Hill 47-46 in the 2012 quarterfinals.
Chapel Hill guard Tamia Eatmon said last year’s disappointing finish is what drives the team.
“We know we have to keep working and keep pushing,” she said. “We’ve got to take care of business and play our game.”
Chapel Hill will carry a 18-game winning streak into Saturday’s Championship game.
The Tigers won Saturday despite shooting just 39 percent from the field and getting out-rebounded 40-34. But CHHS hit 6-of-16 3-point tries, compared to West Craven’s 3-for-11 shooting on 3-pointers. And Chapel Hill took advantage of 18 Eagle turnovers for 21 of the Tigers’ points.
“That was the difference in the ball game,” West Craven coach David Fernandez said. “Our team played hard and fought till the end, but we couldn’t overcome the turnovers.”
Led by Jamie Cherry (22 points, seven rebounds), West Craven was within 54-51 with 1 minute 43 seconds left. But the Eagles couldn’t stop Romaine (15 points) or Jessica Wall, who scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half.
Jamella Smith helped out with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Raziyah Farrington added 11 points for Chapel Hill. Both joined Romaine on the all-regional tournament team.
Eatmon assisted on six baskets. In all, 14 of Chapel Hill’s 23 baskets came off assists.
Harding University’s name reflects the high school’s adoption of the International Baccalaureate diploma program, which includes a lot of Advance Placement and other courses aimed at college preparation.
Rams coach Anthony Jones says his team has studied Chapel Hill enough to know that both 3A finalists like to run and press.
“If the referee has the ball, we’ll press him,” Jones said this week. “Chapel Hill has a great transition game. We like that. This game is likely to come down to which team is in better shape at the end.”
Harding also has plenty of power in the front court, where 5-9 forward Myicha Drakeford leads the team in scoring (15.8 points, 7 rebounds a game) and 6-1 center Brianna Hamrick averages 13 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. Both played on last year’s state championship team.
Norris said controlling the tempo will be a key for her players. “Definitely. The thing we have to do is handle the press,” she said.