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Williams girls play confident, advance to state finals
March 4, 2012Rocky Mount High School
By Conor O'Neill, Burlington Times News
FAYETTEVILLE—Williams High School girls’ basketball coach Tommy Cole said he thought most people saw his team as the underdogs againstRocky Mounton Saturday afternoon in the Class 3-A East Regional final.
His players had a different opinion, and played like it in a 54-50 victory.
“If you tell yourself that you’re not better than the other (team), you play like you’re not better than the others,” sophomore forward Carlye Jones said. “Our confidence has just skied since last year. As long as we play together as a team, I think we can beat anyone.”
Last season, the Bulldogs advanced to the regional semifinals before being ousted in Fayetteville.
This time the Bulldogs won two games in Crown Coliseum, with Saturday’s victory coming in the same dramatic fashion that Williams has played in its last four games.
Williams didn’t make a field goal in the fourth quarter, instead using nine free throws from four different players to hang on. The victory means Williams will play Charlotte Harding at 5 p.m. next Saturday at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill for the state title. Charlotte Harding defeated Hickory 78-46 on Saturday inGreensboro in the West Regional final.
“From the opening whistle, that was probably the best we played,” Cole said of his team’s performance through the first three quarters. “We know we defeated a very good team.”
The Bulldogs (27-4) led for the entire game other than the first two minutes and built a 44-24 lead on Dajea Scott’s basket with 2:56 left in the third quarter. It was the last field goal of the game for Williams.
The Gryphons (26-3) cut Williams’ lead to four on four separate occasions in the final quarter, but Williams had an answer each time.
The Bulldogs again exhibited a toughness.
“We knew we were going to be able to pull it through because we had a 20-point lead,” Scott said. “It just put us under pressure, and we play well under pressure.”
Scott led Williams with 23 points, including 14 in the first half. She was awarded the regional Most Valuable Player and Jones, who scored 12 points, was named to the all-region team.
Rocky Mount deployed a half-court press, trapping Scott or other Williams players when they crossed the mid-court line.
But the Bulldogs were well-prepared for the trapping style, and handled the pressure with relative ease to build its lead.
“We were looking to get it and go, not give them time to trap you,” Scott said. “Hit the middle and then you go.”
Forwards Kaley Moser and Jaylaa Stewart, both seniors, were also tasked with breaking the pressure. Williams was able to get easy baskets in the first half because Moser and Stewart made a habit of becoming available in the middle of the press, catching passes and quickly turning to the basket to start 2-on-1 and 3-on-1 advantages.
Williams also took advantage of foul trouble that plagued Rocky Mount. When J’Kyra Brown, who led the Gryphons with 19 points, picked up her second foul in the first half, Rocky Mountswitched to a 2-3 zone.
That was fine with the Bulldogs, who went inside to Jones often to pile on the points.
“If it’s there, it’s there. It’s not always going to be there,” Jones said. “Our wings and our point guard did a really good job of pushing it up the side. There were a few mismatches.”
Brown led Rocky Mountwith 19 points but made just 5 of 21 shots. As a team, the Gryphons were limited to an 18-for-46 clip from the field, while Williams made 17 of 29 shots.
Cole will be trying to win his third basketball state championship and first directing a girls’ team.