Prep’s girls take care of business at regionals

Prep’s girls take care of business at regionals
March 10
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Christina Caesar scored a game-high 16 points in the Phoenix’s regional cham-pionship victory.



Winston-Salem Prep’s girls took another step in their quest. The Phoenix moved closer to achieving its ultimate goal by beating city rival Atkins 56-44 in the Class 1-A West Regional final at Joel Coliseum on last Saturday.

With the win, Prep gets a return trip to the state finals and the chance to accomplish its season-long vision of winning back-to-back titles. The Phoenix is set to play Plymouth at Carmichael Auditorium on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill at 12 “We’re extremely excited to win the regional and get the opportunity to win another state championship,” said coach Eugene Love of Prep. “We got through some adversity and made adjustments based on the way the game was being officiated. On the offensive end, we stepped up and knocked down some shots. Once we got into a rhythm, that’s when the game opened up a little bit.”

In the regional title game, Atkins controlled the tempo early, primarily because of its willingness to attack the basket. The Camels went up 14-12 at the end of the first quarter. But after that, Prep eventually got in sync and pulled ahead in the closing minutes of the first half to take a 29-24 lead at intermission.

The Phoenix held steady in spite of point guard Jada Craig’s foul problems. Craig, the team’s floor leader and top scorer, was whistled for her fourth foul with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter. She fouled out in the fourth quarter and finished with four points.

Even though Craig was forced to sit and watch, Prep (27-3) was able to add to its four-point lead. Christina Caesar had a three-point play and Kristian Saunders scored inside to push the lead to 42-34 at the end of the third quarter.

“We preach team,” said Love. “And on this team, we have seven other very talented kids. Any one of them can go big at any time. So you can’t key on just one person (to stop). Tonight, it was Christina’s and (Mychala) Wolfe’s time to step up.” Wolfe (13 points) provided timely outside shooting and hit four 3-pointers in the process. Dominique Claytor turned in a solid performance at both ends of the court with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“The key for me was being able to keep up with who I was guarding and not get into foul trouble,” said Wolf, who shot 67 percent from 3-point distance. “Offensively, I just had to focus on my shot and not rush it.”

In the fourth quarter, Prep spread the floor to take time off the clock, which forced Atkins to foul. The Phoenix closed the game out to win by hit-ting 11-of-14 free throws in the second half. It was a much different performance than the first half when it went 0-for-7 from the foul line.

The seeds for Prep’s state championship run were sewn two years ago when the Phoenix lost to Bishop McGuinness (49-46) in the semifinals of the Class 1-A West Regionals. McGuinness went on to capture its ninth straight state championship.

The memory of that defeat lingered in the players’ minds, but it also served as a powerful motivational tool for the following season.

“That game (loss to McGuinness) stayed with us,” said Caesar. “On that day, they were not better than us. We did a lot of crazy things that we shouldn’t have done. After that game, we just kept moving forward.”

Atkins (21-7) had high expectations for this contest and for good reason. Over the two previous sea-sons, the Camels split two regular-season games with Prep. This season, they lost both games by an average margin of four points.

“It’s very disappointing because we feel like we could’ve played much better,” said coach Louis Lowery of Atkins. “We’ve always played them close, but close is only good in horseshoes. The main thing is that defensively, we didn’t do our job. We take pride in keeping teams in the 30s and 40s.”

Up until last Saturday, the Camels played at a superlative level in the postseason. Although they finished No. 2 behind Prep in the ultra-competitive Northwest 1-A Conference, they were seeded 12th in the West Region. The low seeding didn’t matter. Atkins pulled off consecutive upsets of No. 4 Elkin and No. 1 seed Hiwassee Dam to advance to the regional final.

Power forward Saryna Carpenter finished her high school career at Atkins with a double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds). Fellow seniors Tyler Mercer scored 13 points and Tyler Davenport added 10.

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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