Nearly every time they take the court, it seems, the Myers Park girls basketball players find a way to surprise their coach, Dustin Terrel.
The most recent example – and -perhaps the most impressive – came on Dec. 28, when the Mustangs returned from Raleigh with the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational title after tearing through rugged competition.
To win the tournament, Myers Park (14-0) defeated three teams that had a combined two losses at the time: -Durham Hillside, Cary Green Hope and Raleigh Millbrook. Each squad is considered a strong candidate to compete for the Class 4A state championship.
After winning the popular tournament, formerly known as the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational, the Mustangs now are perhaps the -strongest candidates to bring home the state title.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think we’d go up there and win it,” Terrel said. “I thought we’d go up there and be competitive. But win it? I didn’t know. But we played probably the best basketball that we’ve played.
“We were down to Hillside early, but other than that, we started off strong in every game. We were up on Millbrook by 18 at one point and Green Hope by 15. We played well. I was really shocked by how well we came out, especially in front of those crowds.”
The tournament was held at Broughton High, which has the only gym in North Carolina capable of seating the school’s total enrollment, which this year is listed at 2,109. But the capacity crowds each night didn’t seem to faze the Mustangs.
“Our girls seem to get up for moments like that,” Terrel said. “Plus, we had so much fan support. Every one of our players probably had at least five parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles who were there.”
Myers Park handled Durham Hillside in the tournament opener, 66-50, before taking down a one-loss Green Hope squad, 69-68. In the championship game, the Mustangs defeated Millbrook, 50-45, in what many considered a preview to a state-finals matchup.
Mustangs senior forward Roddreka Rogers was named the tournament’s most valuable player after averaging 17 points and 10.6 rebounds.
The tournament success had special meaning for Rogers and her sister, Rydeiah, a freshman forward on the squad. For starters, their father, -Rodney, was a star at Hillside before going on to Wake Forest and the NBA. Also, in 1989, Rodney Rogers was named the most valuable player of the tournament, held in the same gym.
Rodney Rogers was paralyzed in an ATV accident in 2008 and lives just outside Raleigh. He was unable to attend the tournament, but Terrel said sharing the MVP distinction with her father resonated with Roddreka -Rogers.
“(Rodney) was originally supposed to be honored that last night (of the tournament),” Terrel said. “But when they gave Roddreka her MVP plaque, they also gave her a little plaque to give to her dad that had part of the old Broughton High School floor on it. It was pretty neat.”
Rydeiah Rogers and sophomore guard Saadia Timpton joined Roddreka Rogers on the all-tournament team. But all the Mustangs seem to add a new thrill for their coach with each outing.
“I’m shocked at how well we’ve played,” Terrel said. “The depth we have makes it easier. We have seven players that are going to play high major-(Division I) basketball, so each and every night, when someone has a bad game, there’s five or six other girls who can pick up the slack. So I’m starting to get on the bandwagon and really feel like we can do something special.”
“We always talk about how good we want to be and how we want to go undefeated and all that type of stuff,” Terrel said. “That was never a goal that I had; it was more of (the players’) goal. But now I see the writing on the wall that we can go undefeated and we can make our mark and leave Mecklenburg County as (state) champions. We’ve definitely done some things I didn’t think we could do. Our weaknesses have slowly become our strengths.”