Bishop, Andrews girls eye state crowns

Mar. 10, 2014 @ 08:36 PM

The Bishop McGuinness girls have been here many times before, while the T.W. Andrews girls are making their first visit. Both will play Saturday for state basketball championships.

The Red Raiders (24-5) will face Catawba Bandys (31-0) at noon in the 2A championship game in N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum, while the Villains (28-4) will take on Williamston Riverside (29-0) for the 1A title also at noon in North Carolina’s Smith Center.

Andrews has been one of the area’s top teams in recent years, but it hasn’t quite broken through. This year, though, it has played extremely well throughout the latter half of the season, executed its game very well and roared past many of the East’s top teams.

“It feels great,” Red Raiders coach John Shearin said during Monday’s press conference in Chapel Hill. “I’m very proud of my kids; I’m proud of the school community. It’s like anything — it takes a village.

“It’s more than just me. It’s the coaching staff, the parents, our school, our teachers, our administrators. Everyone has put forth the effort to make sure these young ladies have the best opportunity they can.”

Andrews, the No. 7 seed from the East in its first regional since 1998, beat No. 6 Kinston 57-56 on Wednesday in the regional semifinals and then routed No. 1 Reidsville 54-31 in the regional final Saturday — forcing 55 turnovers in the two games combined.

The Red Raiders, who were a combined 2-5 in five previous regional appearances, have been led by players including Imani Watkins, Brie Grier and October Campbell and will face traditional powerhouse Bandys, which is second-most all-time with six state titles.

“Our mindset that we came in with was: ‘One more game,’” said Watkins, who was the regional MVP, following Saturday’s game. “At the beginning of the season, we were so focused on winning a state championship that we lost sight of: ‘One more game.’

“So, coming in (to the regionals), our mindset was: ‘One more game.’ If we win that game, then the next one is: ‘One more game.’ You can’t look too far ahead, and I think that’s what has gotten us here. So, now it really is one more game.”

Bishop is one of the state’s most successful teams — boys or girls in any sport — in the history of the NCHSAA. Having won eight straight titles, it seeks to tie Dallas Bishop Lynch with the third-longest streak in the National Federation of High School Associations at nine.

Bishop will face a Knights team making its second state finals appearance (formerly known as Williamston High, it lost by nine against the Villains in 2010) after having been ranked among the state’s top teams, finishing the year atop the 1A poll.

“Obviously, it feels great. It feels very rewarding,” Bishop coach Brian Robinson said. “It’s been a tougher season than expected in some ways because we lost Olivia (DeFrancesco) to an ACL injury. With the tough nonconference schedule and playing without our point guard, that’s been very tough. But we got through it, and we find ourselves sitting here again.”

Led by players like Julia Brown, Tia Cappuccio, Tessa Johnston and Cameron Nieters, Bishop, the West’s No. 2 seed, edged No. 5 Winston-Salem Prep 49-46 in the final seconds of the regional semifinals and then overcame a slow start to beat No. 6 Hayesville 57-49 in the final.

“Coach kept telling us how we weren’t giving our best effort,” said Brown, who was the regional MVP following Sunday’s game, of the second half. “We all knew we weren’t. It was encouraging to know we were still ahead, even though we hadn’t given our best effort.

“I think that’s the worst thing as a player to know that you’re not giving your best effort, because some days your shots might not fall but at least you can say you tried your hardest. … And I think everyone did a good job picking it up and realizing this isn’t our last game.”

Tickets will be on sale at the schools for $9; they will be $10 at the games. Parking at Reynolds will be available without charge, while parking at the Smith Center will be $10 for most lots near the arena (also $1.50 per hour for the Rams Head Deck).