WS Prep girls win their first state championship

WS Prep girls win their first state championship
March 19
00:00 2015

The game clock ticked off the waning seconds.

Jada Craig flashed a high-beam grin as she dribbled and waited for the time to run out. The final buzzer sounded and the dream became reality. Winston-Salem Prep whipped Riverside Martin 58-31 to claim its first state championship in girls’ basketball.

For Craig, it wasn’t one of her better offensive outings (8 points), but she more than compensated with eight assists and two steals. It was a fitting way to close out a season in which the Phoenix put together one of its most complete performances.

The championship game played at Carmichael Arena proved to be a replay of Prep’s outcomes in earlier rounds of this year’s state playoffs. The Phoenix (24-3) won in blow-out fashion again.

In the Class 1-A final, Coach Eugene Love’s team was dominant. The game was never tied and there were no lead changes. As a team, Riverside didn’t score in double digits until the fourth quarter.

Winston-Salem Prep overwhelmed the Knights in every way possible, especially on defense. Riverside shot 25.5 percent from the field and 35 percent from the free throw line. The Knights top offensive threat Kayla Jones (21.5 points per game) was limited to 12 points and 11 rebounds on 3-of-16 field goal shooting. She was the only Knight to score in double figures.

Much of Jones’s shooting woes were caused by the defensive presence of Dominique Claytor, who at 5-feet-10 was able to match-up well against Jones, a 6-feet-1 swing player who does most of Riverside’s ball-handling. Claytor, the championship game MVP, scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

“There was never a question as to who would guard Jones,” said Love. “Dominique is tall enough and athletic enough to handle that match-up. She did an outstanding job in making Jones work for everything she got.”

Claytor embraced the challenge and more than held her own in the one-on-one duel. “I just tried to stay active and keep in front of her,” Claytor said. “Coach talked to me during the week and he explained all the different things she likes to do when she has the ball in her hands.”

The Phoenix pushed the pace to a faster tempo in the second quarter. Mychala Wolfe, Chrisalyn Boston, Kayla Robinson and Claytor led the charge on a 13-2 run and Prep led 32-15 at the half.

The long-awaited moment for a championship-game victory was not lost on Claytor. After Prep won West Regional two weeks ago to advance to the state, Claytor ended a press conference by saying “Hey, we’re going to the ‘ship’ y’all.”

A week later, she was nearly speechless.

“Right now, I’m just too excited,” she said in a post-game interview. “Words can’t describe how I feel. When that buzzer went off, I knew it (winning the ‘ship’) was a done deal.”

At the start of the season, Prep’s girls were on a mission to make amends for the previous season that ended in a nightmare. The Phoenix lost by 3 points in regionals to Bishop McGuinness, which went on to win its ninth straight state championship.

The Phoenix players were haunted by that memory and Love used it as motivation to keep his team focused and hungry. “We felt like we beat ourselves in that game because we missed so many free throws,” said Love. “So, we went back to work and found ways to improve in every game. I give a lot of credit to these ladies for keeping their passion to work and win games. We’re going to enjoy this for a while.”

Aside from Claytor, the Phoenix had three other players to score in double figures, which included two with double-doubles. Boston contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds and Robinson added 13 points and 10 boards. Wolfe finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 field shooting from the field.

“I just came out and did my job,” Boston said, who was voted Most Outstanding Player for the Phoenix. “I take the shots when I’m open. When a shot goes up, I grab the rebound and kick the ball out so we can get our running game going.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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