Twice as nice: Boys and girls Prep teams headed to state championships

Twice as nice: Boys and girls Prep teams headed to state championships
March 12
00:00 2015
 (Above: Photo’s by Craig Greenlee- WS Prep’s Chrisalyn Boston  and D.J. Harrison in action.)

Winston-Salem Prep is in position to pull off a rare basketball double. The Phoenix boys and girls’ teams turned in noteworthy performances in winning their respective match-ups in the Class 1-A Western Regional finals played last weekend at the Fairgrounds Annex.

The wins put both teams in Saturday’s (March 14) state championship games in Chapel Hill. Prep’s boys’ shocked previously unbeaten Albemarle 64-43. Eyeing its fourth straight state crown, WSP will play East Carteret in a rematch of last year’s title contest which Prep won 72-71 on Kwa’Tre Hollingsworth’s follow shot in the closing seconds.

The Phoenix girls delivered the knock-out blow early in a 63-34 runaway win over Cherokee. This will be the first championship game appearance for Prep’s ladies who will face Williamston Riverside.

Second quarter lock-down

Defense is Prep’s calling card and it was on full display during a key stretch of the second quarter in the regional final. Albemarle rallied to cut the Phoenix lead to 24-22. Coach Andre Gould made a lineup switch, which changed the tenor of the game in Prep’s favor for good.

Gould pulled his starters and put Davier Dixon, Josh Gould, Kendrick Edwards, Keeshon Patrick and Ne’Quan Carrington in the game. Over the final five minutes of the quarter, the Phoenix back-ups denied space to perimeter shooters and closed off the driving lanes. The revved-up intensity was more than Albemarle could handle.

The usually efficient Bulldogs had problems executing and ended up taking errant shots. In the meantime, Prep (21-7) pounded the boards and scored a few fast-break baskets. In the process, Gould’s crew went on a 10-0 spurt to regain command with a 34-22 lead at the half.

“We have 15 players who can go in the game at any time,” said Gould. “There are 12 in the rotation, and we have three more new folks who are still in training. Regardless of how the game is going, we’re going to be relentless. We’re not going to back down. We compete on every sequence at both ends of the floor. Now we’re looking to come out one more time (in state championship game) and get the job done.”

Regional MVP Kwa’Tre Hollingsworth and Daivien Williamson, who scored 17 points apiece, took turns leading the offense. Williamson scored 10 of his total in the first half and Hollingsworth finished strong with 15 points in the second half.

Coach Al Andrew of Albemarle (26-1) is familiar with Prep’s style of play. Familiarity, he acknowledged, doesn’t necessarily translate into success. “With their size and quickness, there’s no way you can duplicate that in practice,” said Andrew. “Prep has so many weapons and they’re strong at every position.”

 Ladies steamroller

Less than five minutes after tip-off, there was no doubt about the final outcome. The Phoenix ladies buried Cherokee with an early-flurry and went on cruise control the rest of the way.

Tournament MVP Mychala Wolfe hit three 3-pointers in the opening quarter and Prep (23-3) controlled the action at both ends of the floor. The Phoenix went up 29-5 by the end of the first quarter and never looked back.

Wolfe scored a game-high 20 points and Jada Craig contributed 12. Dominique Claytor and Chrisalyn Boston chipped in with 10 points apiece, mostly on offensive put-backs.

The victory erases the haunting memory of last year’s match-up against Bishop McGuinness in the regional semifinals. Prep had the Villains in trouble, but icy free-throw shooting set the table for a heart-wrenching loss.

“This team is a year older and a year wiser,” said WSP Coach Eugene Love. “We’ve gotten accustomed to playing in big games, so it’s nothing new to us any more. Now, we’re one step away from getting to where we want to be.”

Cherokee (25-4), a team that advanced to the regionals five years in a row, was confident about its chances to earn a trip to the state title game. The Braves, however, never had much of a chance after falling behind by such a big margin so quickly.

“Prep hit a lot of shots, grabbed a lot of rebounds, and things just snowballed from there,” said Coach Chris Mintz of Cherokee. “Their defense wouldn’t allow us to get into anything we wanted to do offensively. They are by far the best team we’ve played over the last five years and that includes those (state championship) Bishop McGuinness teams.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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