Chapel Hill girls prepare for reigning state champs
A 30-1 record says something about the fortitude of a squad such as Chapel Hill, but Coach Sherry Norris said Harding University High School should have the mental edge when the teams play for the state 3-A girls’ basketball title at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum on Saturday (5 p.m., Time Warner Cable 520).
Harding won it all a year ago, so the Lady Rams (23-4) have been through everything that comes with championship basketball, Norris said.
Rams coach Anthony Jones said it’s harder these days to return to the big game because players are exposed to better coaching and are getting enhanced physical training, which has produced more parity among teams.
Part of the reason Harding made it back to the title game is because the team’s seniors have told the varsity newcomers what it was like in the “Promised Land,” Jones said.
Chapel Hill will spend time this week in practice working on ball fakes to counter Harding’s shot blockers, Norris said.
Harding’s Abrea Harris was the Western Regional most valuable player, and she’ll have some help with Myicha Drakeford leading the team with roughly 15 points and seven rebounds per game.
Of course, Chapel Hill has Carolina 6 Conference player of the year Jamella Smith, who made the Eastern Regional all-tournament team along with teammate Raziyah Farrington. Chapel Hill center Catherine Romaine was the Eastern Regional most valuable player.
The Tigers would not have had a shot at the title if freshman Autumn West hadn’t hit the winning bucket against Northern Guilford in the opening round of the Eastern Regional.
On Saturday, the Tigers will have to keep in mind that the court at Reynolds Coliseum is bigger than the gym floors in high schools, which threw off their defensive assignments against Northern Guilford in Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum, Norris said.
Practicing in North Carolina’s Carmichael Arena is not an option because it would create a recruiting advantage for UNC, according to NCAA rules.
Besides, Norris said, Chapel Hill’s players compete on college courts with the other basketball teams they are on, so neither the size of the floor nor the goals being mounted on those portable hydraulic backboards in Reynolds will be an excuse.
“That’s just a cop-out for us, talking about the shooting,” Norris said. “They play on college campuses all over the Eastern seaboard.
“But it’s different (playing for a state chamionship). It is a different experience.”