Basketball Notebook for February 10

Myers Park girls driven to finish season with perfect record

When the Myers Park girls basketball team squeaked past Ardrey Kell by just eight points on Jan. 27, it looked as if the pressure of being undefeated was starting to get to the Mustangs.

It turns out that Ardrey Kell simply is a good team that executed a smart game plan that night.

Oh, and Myers Park still is as dominant as ever.

The Mustangs sport a 23-0 record heading into their Friday, Feb. 10 regular-season finale at Rocky River. They’ve won their past two games by 39 and 37 points, respectively. And if anybody thinks the Mustangs are starting to feel the effects of trying to remain undefeated, well, think again.

“I don’t think it’s had any (negative) impact on how we play,” Mustangs coach Dustin Terrel said. “I think as it was building, when we were around 11-0 or 12-0, everyone was kind of wondering if we would go on a little slide. But our biggest focus right now is to stay undefeated. All the goals of winning the state championship and all that, we don’t talk about those things now. It’s all about being undefeated.

“If we stay undefeated, all that other stuff will take care of itself. Until somebody knocks us off, I like where we are.”

Instead of shying away from talk of whether they can maintain their unblemished record, the Myers Park players embrace it.

“It actually feels pretty good knowing that we’re undefeated and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do and that we’re that team that everyone wants to beat,” freshman forward Rydeiah Rogers said. “We know we have to come out with our ‘A’ game every game. I think that makes us better.”

The Mustangs, however, want to make it clear that they haven’t gotten cocky in their pursuit of perfection. That’s a label they want to avoid.

“A lot of people are talking about us being ‘the new Butler’ and how we go around and kill everyone and do it disrespectfully,” junior forward India Timpton said. “But we’re not like that. We’re just doing what we do. And if that’s winning all the time, then that means winning all the time.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve had to battle that hard for some of our victories, except for the (Raleigh) Christmas tournament, but we work hard every day in practice. We earn our wins.”

Timpton, who ranks third on the team with five rebounds per game, said Myers Park’s coach makes certain of that.

“When you go into those two-hour practices, you’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re (23)-0!’” she said. “But then you come out dead tired because Coach Terrel’s had us running if we got a play wrong or missed a layup. Then we go right back down to being level-headed.”

Catholic boys beat Berry, make statement

Charlotte Catholic held off a furious fourth-quarter comeback on Jan 3 and defeated Berry Academy, 81-76.

The win, coupled with a Harding loss to undefeated Olympic, moved the Cougars (19-4 and 10-2 in the ME-GA 7 3A/4A conference) into sole possession of second place in the league standings.

“We knew that when it was time to play we had to buckle down and play our tough defense, and we did that,” said Catholic forward Robert Champion, who led the way with 31 points against Berry.

“When it mattered most, we were able to come through when we needed to.”

Coach Mike King said that when his Cougars, who went on a 30-2 run against Berry and led by as many as 24 points, focus and execute, they’re capable of beating any team.

“It is great when we are hitting all of our shots and everything is falling and working,” King said. “More important, to be able to withstand a run like that and keep or composure says a lot about our kids and the heart and our mental toughness. That will serve us well going forward,”

Catholic closes out the regular season Friday at Olympic.

Charlotte Latin girls control what they can

There are still plenty of times when the Charlotte Latin girls’ inexperience shows, such as on Feb. 3, when the Hawks lost to Providence Day, 70-36. But all in all, Charlotte Latin coach Deb Savino is pleased with her team’s progress so far this season, despite its 7-13 record.

Rife with first-year starters, the Hawks stumbled to a 3-17 record last year and missed out on the state playoffs after going winless in league play. Now, with one game remaining, the Hawks are 1-5 in league play and doing the things necessary to make a late-season push up the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association standings.

The Hawks have improved their team scoring average from 36 points per game last year to 50 this season, while cutting their average points allowed from 53.6 to 50.1.

“There’s been a lot of improvement defensively,” said Savino. “There are a lot of good things happening with some of the younger kids.”

Savino estimated that the Hawks let three winnable games “slip away,” which she said was a product of a young team learning to give consistent effort, game to game and minute to minute.

“That’s the (idea) of, ‘You’ve got to come out hard and play hard and battle inside,’” Savino said. “But that’s the learning process. I think we’ll get there by tournament time.”

To drive the point home, senior Garland Austin, who leads the team with more than 15 points per game, said the Hawks adopted the mantra “Control the controllables.”

Austinr explained that while the Hawks can’t do anything about their lack of height or experience, they can control the amount of effort they put forth in a game.

“If we’re hustling and if we’re taking our defensive possessions and translating them into offense, it can do big things, especially when it comes to the state tournament,” Austin said.

Chargers host Play4Kay, rematch

On Friday, the Providence Day girls (22-4) will host its Play4Kay event. The Chargers will wear pink jerseys and play with a pink ball in the game against Asheville Carolina Day, with proceeds from the contest benefitting the Kay Yow Foundation.

Yow is the former N.C. State women’s coach who died in 2009 of breast cancer.

“Friday, this place is going to be rocking,” said Chargers coach Josh Springer.

And the enthusiasm couldn’t be better-timed, as 20-0 Carolina Day, downed the Chargers 62-52 on Jan. 24 and appear to be favored to repeat as the 2A private-school state champion. Providence Day hasn’t lost since its trip to Asheville, but Springer said his team will need to focus on its defensive transition and containing Carolina Day’s guards.

“Those things have got to be Priority 1 and 1A for us down the stretch,” said Springer. “Offensively, I think we’re making good strides, but defensively, we need 12 players to bring those two things on every single possession, because one possession will probably be the difference in the ball game against Carolina Day. I really believe that.”

Offensively, the Chargers have looked sharp. In a Feb. 3 win over Charlotte Latin, the Chargers had 17 assists and made 54 percent of their shots from the floor, which Springer attributed to an effort in finding the second and third scoring options to complement leading scorers Tiffany Mitchell (19.8 points per game) and Jatarie White (14.5).

Which, like the excitement surrounding the Chargers’ Play4Kay event, is well-timed.

“We don’t want Carolina Day to beat us twice,” said Springer. “We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and make some adjustments so we can try to hold serve on our court.”

Latin boys: road warriors

With its 68-38 win over Providence Day on Feb. 3, the Charlotte Latin boys won their second consecutive road game. But more impressive, the Hawks, with a roster filled mainly with sophomores and juniors, improved to 5-5 away from home.

“We’ll take that (record) every day,” said coach Chris Berger.

The Hawks have won three of their last four games, and Berger said the team’s defense was a key, even in the loss, when Latin fell to Charlotte Catholic, 54-43, on Jan. 27. The Hawks held the Cougars 12 points below their average of 66 points per game. In that stretch, Berger estimated that his team had forced between 18 to 20 turnovers per game.

“That will help you win games,” said Berger.

“We play behind the arc a lot, and when (our shots) are falling, we’re a tough team,” Berger added. “If they’re not, we’ve good a good Plan B, and that’s getting after it defensively and trying to be as scrappy as we can be.”

The Hawks were slated to return home to face Charlotte Christian on Feb. 7 before travelling to Concord Cannon on Feb. 10.

Charger boys eye future

The Providence Day boys suffered their seventh loss in eight games last week when it fell to Charlotte Latin, 68-38 on Feb. 3. But rather than dwell on the 30-point loss, coach Brian Field used his postgame talk to point to the Hawks as an example for his young team.

Last year, Charlotte Latin was the youngest team in the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association and stumbled to an 8-17 record before finishing outside the Class 3A private-school playoffs. In just one season, the Hawks are currently in second place in the league with a 14-9 overall mark and are virtual shoe-ins for the state playoffs with a 4-2 league record.

“(The Hawks) are the 2011 version, and we’re the 2012” Fields said to his team. “Now what we have to do is do what they did. They’re a great example.”

Fields said the message was received.

“The encouraging thing to me is our guys walked out of (the locker room), and nobody was hanging their heads,” Fields said. “They weren’t OK with losing, but they’re using it to get better. They’ve kept their heads on straight, which is the first part of the process.”

Catholic girls look to restore confidence

Going into their Feb. 7 game against East Gaston, the Charlotte Catholic girls had lost three consecutive games after winning six of the previous seven contests. They are now 12-11 and 6-5 in the ME-GA 7 3A/4A.

Coach Bobby Conrad said the Cougars came out of Christmas break with momentum and confidence, and was able to string together a good stretch.

The last three games, against 19-2 York (Pa.) Catholic, 16-2 Harding and 19-2 Berry were all tough games against good opponents, but Conrad said there is more to it.

“We got badly outrebounded (against Berry) in the first half but adjusted and did a much better job,” he said. “We have to get back the confidence that we had coming out of the break and play a full game. If we play the whole 32 minutes, we will be fine against anybody.

“The thing I love about this team is they never quit. We always play hard but we don’t always play tough. That is what we have to do.”

Catholic closes out the regular season on Friday at Olympic.

South Meck girls coach stays optimistic

To say the least, it’s been a trying season for the South Mecklenburg girls.

The Sabres have won just three of their 23 games and posted a single conference victory. But first-year coach Cristie Mitchell said judging the Sabres’ season requires some perspective.

“Success isn’t necessarily based on the win-loss record,” said Mitchell. “Yes, I’d like to have won more than three games this year, but if you look at the girls from top to bottom, some of them couldn’t dribble a ball with their left hand when they got here. I’ve got kids who’ve never played at the varsity level before.”

Mitchell took over the South Meck program after 10 seasons at Waddell, where she frequently took the team to the state playoffs. She has some talented players on her new roster, such as senior point guard Jazmyn Saunders, junior shooting guard Kaitlyn Cash and junior forward Shelby Raft. But as a whole, the Sabres are young, with only three seniors and two juniors on the 13-player squad.

That’s a stark contrast from the program that won the state title in 2006.

“Mainly, we’re just trying to get them to believe again,” Mitchell said. “I’m trying to rebuild a program that once was one of the toughest in Charlotte. We’ve had to start with fundamentals, but they’ve made a lot of improvement since the beginning of the season.

“But it’s mainly about getting them to believe that they can do it. I think within two or three years, we’ll rebuild South Meck girls basketball again.”

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