Observations from special correspondent Alex Bass from Saturday's N.C. 4A finals in Raleigh:
The West Charlotte girls and East Mecklenburg boys, certainly, appreciate their fans support � what few of them made the trip to Reynolds Coliseum for each team�s first appearance in a N.C. basketball state final. The low turnout was disappointing particularly given the eligibility issues both schools have endured this school year. Playing on the sport�s biggest stage would seem to offer Lions and Eagles partisans something about which to celebrate. Many others, though, seemed not to agree.
Cheerleaders� positions along both baselines are too close to the court. A seated cheerleader who extended her leg completely was prone to be in bounds. These situations interfere with players� abilities to run along the baseline when inbounding the basketball and create safety hazards for players diving out of bounds.
The MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) tournament finals � played Saturday in Raleigh � could not hold a candle to the battles of the bands and cheerleaders waged during the West Charlotte-Westover game. Brass blared on both coliseum ends for the duration of halftime. The cheerleading squads held back-and-forth stunt exchanges, and moved within three feet of each other before one squad was asked to retreat. Then, everyone just kept going�and going�and going.
West Charlotte did not convert a field goal until 3:36 remained in the first quarter. The Lions did not make a basket from the final stanza�s 5:28 mark until 28.5 seconds remained. The final stats credited West Charlotte with just two fast break points, and the Lions did not convert an outside shot until 1:24 before halftime. West Charlotte, still, led 44-37 early in the fourth quarter.
The Lions, who shot 38 percent from the field for the game, missed numerous first half layups. West Charlotte�s inability to score precluded it from applying any significant full court pressure until 30.1 seconds before the break. Westover spent the majority of the first half in zone defenses conceding outside shots.
Westover coach Gene Arrington was a member of the Herman Boone-coached football team documented in the movie �Remembering the Titans.�
East Mecklenburg, trailing 39-33 at the third quarter�s three-minute mark, netted seven points in 30 seconds among nine consecutive points in one minute to take the lead for good. Apex�s Tim Plummer picked up his fourth foul before the Eagles� Titus Robinson slammed home a rebound (2:52) before stealing the next inbound pass and dunking for another deuce. Jeremy Ingram followed with a three-pointer. East Mecklenburg closed the stanza on a 16-2 run.
A bigger East Mecklenburg team attempted nearly 25 percent (7-29) of its first half shots from beyond the arc. The Eagles, who trailed 30-29 at halftime, had eight points in the paint to Apex�s six over the first two quarters, while East Mecklenburg scored 18 of its 43 second half points in the paint.
Apex allowed 99 total points in its two Eastern regional games before surrendering 72 to East Mecklenburg. The Eagles scored 34 points off 23 Apex turnovers. East Mecklenburg shot 56.5 percent (13-23) from the field after intermission compared to 31 percent (9-29) before halftime.
East Mecklenburg and Apex took advantage of their chances at the free throw line. The Eagles converted 23-29 (79.3 percent) to the Cougars� 18-23 (78.3 percent).
One rule change to consider for next season is the elimination of the alternating possession arrow in favor of the jumpball. It is a travesty for the outcome of a tied ball to be determined by who did/did not gain possession on a previous tied ball � which may have come at a less significant juncture of the game. Westover led West Charlotte 51-49 inside of two minutes to play when a tied ball was awarded to the Wolverines. Westover guard Tiara Gause netted a pair of free throws after which the Lions never pulled even.