Phoenix and Camels will face off in girls’ regional final

Phoenix and Camels will face off in girls’ regional final
March 03
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Point guard Jada Craig is a prime factor at both ends of the floor for Prep, the defending Class 1-A state champ.



It’s only appropriate that Winston-Salem Prep and Atkins find themselves in dueling for supremacy in Class 1-A girls’ basketball. Both teams advanced to the West Regional championship game on Saturday (game site and tip-off time had not been announced at press time).

The regional winner will advance to the state championship set for March 12 in Chapel Hill.

The Phoenix and Camels finished 1-2 in the Northwest Conference this season. In recent years, the two schools located in East Winston have developed an intriguing rivalry.

Prep, the defending state champ, earned its spot in the regionals by blistering South Davidson, 67-34 in the fourth round on Tuesday night. In the meantime, 12th-seeded Atkins took a 5-hour bus ride to the mountains and pulled off a shocking 48-44 upset win over Murphy Hiwassee Dam, the West Region’s No. 1 seed.

“We came out ready to play (against South Davidson),” said coach Eugene Love of Winston-Salem Prep. “We wanted to show our strengths defensively. We’re excited about getting back to the regionals. The girls have worked extremely hard all season. We’re going to keep our minds focused on our theme: ‘It’s our time.’ That’s what we keep telling ourselves.”

Although the Phoenix won both of its regular-season games against the Camels, it was hardly a cakewalk. Prep (26-3) registered a 44-37 victory at home in early January. Three weeks later, the Phoenix prevailed again, but just barely in a 35-34 win on Atkins’ home court. The outcome wasn’t determined until the final seconds of play.

Atkins (21-6) is having its best season in school history. So, in spite of two losses to Prep, the Camels will not lack confidence in their quest to dethrone the champs. Aside from the narrow margins of defeat, they know that the Phoenix can be beaten because they’ve done it before. It was last season (when Prep won the state title) when Atkins split its two conference games against the Phoenix.

“There’s not a lot of pressure on us,” said swing player Dominique Claytor of Prep. “But as a team, it means a lot (to be able to put ourselves in position to win another championship). And it’s all because of the work and effort we’ve put in on and off the court. We just want to finish out our season year with a win.”

For Winston-Salem Prep, the third and fourth playoff rounds had a different kind of flow. The Phoenix struggled against East Wilkes in the third round and trailed by seven points early in the third quarter.

Point guard Jada Craig (19 points) and company turned up the defensive pressure to build a double-digits lead which led to Prep’s 53-35 victory last Saturday.

Three nights later against South Davidson, the Phoenix bolted to a 16-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and shifted gears to cruise control to win handily. Craig and Chrisalyn Boston scored 14 points apiece. Claytor finished with 13 and Mychala Wolfe contributed 10 points to the cause.

Atkins overcame a shaky start against Hiwassee Dam to secure its regional berth.

Late in the third quarter, point guard Tyler Mercer scored eight points and had one assist during a 14-0 run that gave Atkins a six-point cushion by the end of the quarter. Mercer was the Camels top scorer with 14 points, followed by Armani Hampton, who finished with 13.

In the third round against fourth-seeded Elkin, the Camels defense set the tone in a 47-33 road victory. The shot-blocking front line of Hampton, Saryna Carpenter and Chandler Robinson made life difficult for Elkins shooters. Taylor Blakely and Carpenter were the Camels’ leading scorers with 12 points apiece.


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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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