Class 1-A state basketball playoffs: Atkins High girls are indeed legit

Class 1-A state basketball playoffs: Atkins High girls are indeed legit
March 04
00:00 2016

In photo: Coach Louis Lowery of Atkins is not surprised that the 12th-seeded Camels are only one game away from playing for a state championship. (Photo by Craig T. Greenlee)


It’s safe to say that that few people believed that Atkins’ girls would make an extended run in this year’s Class 1-A state basketball playoffs. Through four rounds of postseason play, the Camels have delivered stunning victories as the West Region’s No. 12 seed.

Armani Hampton shoots free throws during a practice session prior to the West Regional finals on Saturday. (Photo by Craig T. Greenlee)

Armani Hampton shoots free throws during a practice session prior to the West Regional finals on Saturday.
(Photo by Craig T. Greenlee)

Atkins pulled off an eyebrow-raising 48-44 upset win over top-seeded Hiwassee Dam earlier this week to confirm its status as a bona fide contender for a state title. Coach Louis Lowery’s crew takes the next step on Saturday, when they face archrival Winston-Salem Prep in the regional final at Joel Coliseum (2 p.m. tip-off).

The winner earns a trip to Chapel Hill to play for the state championship on March 12.

“If we play the way we’re capable of playing, I like our chances against anybody,” said Lowery. “Everybody on this team has a role and we’re playing together and we’re playing with a lot of intensity.”

There’s no doubt that Atkins will be the underdog in most people’s minds. After all, Winston-Salem Prep is the defending state champ, and for the most part, the Phoenix appears to be primed to win back-to-back state titles.

Even so, don’t overlook Atkins (21-6). Over the past three years, the Camels have given Prep (26-3) all it can handle every time these schools get together on a basketball court. This year, for instance, Prep won both regular-season games, but in each case, the outcome could’ve turned out differently.

The Phoenix beat the Camels 44-37 on its home floor and managed to squeeze out a 35-34 victory in the second meeting at the Atkins gym. But that’s not all. A year ago – the same season in which Prep won its first state title in girls’ hoops – the Camels earned a split by winning one of their two regular-season games. The year before that, the teams were 1-1 when they went head-to-head.

“We’ve had some tough losses to Prep,” said Lowery. “But now we get another chance. Now, we’ll get to see how much we’ve learned from our mistakes. This group has gone through some adversity, but they’ve become better and they’re stronger because of that.”
Based on the recent history of these teams, folks can expect a low-scoring, defensive struggle. Both teams have quickness in the backcourt and strong performers on the front line. The outcome, though, is likely to come down to composure, turnovers and free-throw shooting.

No doubt, Prep, No. 2 in the West Region, is formidable. But so is Atkins.

As the 12th seed, the Camels have raised their level of play in posting road wins over No. 4 Elkin and top-seeded Hiwassee Dam. What’s most impressive is the defense. In those two games, the Camels held the opposition to 38.5 points per game.

Even though Atkins is viewed as this year’s Cinderella team, Lowery isn’t surprised by the results. A year ago, the Camels had the look of a serious contender, but fell short in a shocking upset loss to Bishop McGuinness in the opening round of the playoffs.
It was a disappointing time because Atkins had two convincing wins over McGuinness during the regular season. The surprise loss wasn’t a case of the Camels being overconfident. It was a case of being idle for a week and a half because of a snowstorm that forced all schools in Forsyth County to close.

Since the schools were closed, no team was allowed to practice, in accordance with the rules issued by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. When the Camels took the court against the Villains, it was evident that the lengthy time off caused major problems. They were woefully out of sync and clearly rusty.

“It took all of us a while to get over that,” Lowery recalled. “We moved on, but the kids remembered the experience. That’s why they’ve continued to push. All of that came to play in our last win. They endured under adverse circumstances on the road. And they stayed in the fight all the way until the very end. That was a very tough game.”

Armani Hampton, a 5-11 forward, is Atkins’ marquee player. For her career, Hampton, who signed with Appalachian State, has averaged over 15 points a game. Her length, quickness and court savvy make her a difficult cover for opposing defenders.
Hampton, however, is not a solo act.

Saryna Carpenter, a 5-11 power forward, is a solid two-way player in the post. Her ability to hit shots from the perimeter makes her especially lethal. In the middle, 6-1 center Chandler Robinson isn’t known for her scoring. What she does best is snatch rebounds and block shots. As an inside presence, Robinson is equally effective at altering shots whenever opponents take the ball to the basket.

The backcourt has more than held its own. Tyler Mercer, Tyler Davenport and Mikalah Muhammad have all had their superlative moments this season.

In the win over Hiwassee Dam, Mercer’s scoring and assists accounted for 10 points in a decisive 14-0 run in the third quarter that helped Atkins take control of the game.

About Author

Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors