By LANGSTON WERTZ Jr.
MARVIN - A year ago in the finals of the 2007 Bojangles’ Shootout, West Charlotte played the nation’s No. 1 girls’ high school team and was intimidated by the size of Notre Dame (Va.), the rankings and the moment.
“We were more focused on their girls being too big than trying to win,” Lions guard Trena Smith said.
In Tuesday’s Bojangles’ semifinals against another national No.1 St. Michael Academy from New York City, the Lions didn’t repeat their mistakes of a year ago.
West Charlotte (11-2) was dominant from the start, getting a game-high 23 points from Smith and winning 71-57. The Lions will play Butler or East Mecklenburg in today’s 3 p.m. championship game at Marvin Ridge High. It’ll be the first time in the 9-year history of the tournament that a Mecklenburg County team will win this event.
“That would be big for us,” Lions forward Nikki Burton said. “We want to make history. We’ve not won that first championship in anything (the Lions also lost the N.C. 4A final last season), so this would be really good.”
St. Michael, ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s national poll, played without three starters, had 21 turnovers and shot 36 percent. Senior guard Shenneika Smith, who has signed with St. John’s, has an ankle injury and will miss the remainder of the season. Sophomore guard Brianna Sidney was injured before the Bojangles’ tournament and coach Apache Paschall lost sophomore guard Bra’Shey Ali in Monday’s first round win against Norcross (Ga.). Ali injured her knee.
“Coming down here, we figured we’d be all right,” Paschall said. “But losing the kid yesterday hurt. Still, I can’t use that as an excuse. The team we played was the better team today. Naturally you’re concerned with (Burton, signed to Louisville) and (Christal Caldwell, signed to Florida), but what impressed me were the other kids.”
Like Smith, who made 4-of-8 3-point attempts; and like Jessica Freeman, who scored 16 points and had two assists. Burton (nine points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Caldwell (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists) were solid but on this night, they were not the stars.
“On any given night with this bunch, anybody can step up,” Lions coach Reggie Mobley said. “This was just a good team effort today and we’re a well-rounded team, probably the most well-rounded team we’ve ever had assembled.”
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By LANGSTON WERTZ Jr.