Cowboys ride Leach to tourney title
SHEETZ CHAMPIONSHIP NOTEBOOK:
Forgive his tournament opponents if they don’t want to see Terrell Leach for a while. Particularly Western Guilford — it has seen enough of the Southwest Guilford boys star to definitely last a while.
Leach, in two games versus the Hornets earlier this month, scored 33 points and then a week later scored 37 — which was his career high until Saturday. In the tournament final against Western Guilford, he scored 54 points to help lead the Cowboys to a 98-97 win in overtime.
“It feels great,” said Leach, who’s getting looks from several Division-I colleges, as he finally allowed a big grin to break through his game face. “It’s the highest I’ve ever scored.”
In Southwest’s three tournament games, he scored 28, 34 and 54 points — nearly a 39-point average — with 16 3-pointers — including nine in the semis against High Point Central — in running away with the tournament MVP award after missing most of last year with an injury.
“I was surprised, to be honest with you,” Southwest coach Guy Shavers said with a laugh. “He hit some buckets, but it was a quiet 54 points, if there is such a thing. To be honest, he’s been doing this all season. The thing about it is: a lot of the guys today are volume shooters, and I don’t think he’s that. He’s very efficient.”
Two of Leach’s points left the crowd buzzing. With 1:36 left in overtime and the Cowboys (11-0) trailing by one, Leach raced upcourt following the made basket, through the middle of the key and slammed a huge one-handed dunk over two defenders to give them the lead for good.
“Ben Ferguson set a screen and I just came around it,” Leach said. “I saw the open lane and I just tried to get some momentum for our team back.
“I knew it was going to be hard, but when I jumped I didn’t them no more,” he said with a laugh.
Leach, who is well-known for getting high above the rim, drew notable attention from opponents throughout the tournament. Seemingly every time he made a steal, the opposition did everything to keep him from a highlight-reel dunk — including at least twice intentionally fouling.
But, far more impressively, Leach’s biggest dunk wasn’t on a breakaway and it wasn’t during an inconsequential time in the game — it was in traffic and with the game on the line. From that moment on, the Cowboys had the game, and it was largely because of that play.
“I think it was huge. I think that’s finally what pushed us over the top,” Shavers said. “I’ve heard that adage before about a dunk being worth more than two points. I think that took the last little gasp from their guys and allowed us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
BURGINS NAMED MVP
For her outstanding performances during the tournament, Southwest Guilford junior guard Briana Burgins earned MVP, as the Cowgirls captured their second straight Sheetz tournament championship.
She scored 24 points against Southern Guilford in the opener, 14 against Andrews in the semis and 19 against Western Guilford in a 65-51 win Saturday to capture the title in a strong overall effort by Southwest throughout the tournament.
“It’s so amazing,” Burgins said with a wide grin. “It was one of my personal goals. But anyone on this team could’ve won it. I’m just glad that the other coaches chose me.”
The Cowgirls, for the first time this season, won three straight games and did so with so many of the elements that have made them successful in the past — solid defense, quick transition and efficient offense.
Entering the tournament at 3-5, Southwest exited at 6-5 — beating Western Guilford for the third time (and the first by double digits) and rival Andrews for the first time in three meetings this season.
So, while surely there’s still work to be done, the Cowgirls made big strides toward defending their sparkling Piedmont Triad 4A Conference record — 24-0 in the regular season and two tournament titles — over the last two seasons as they head into PTC play.
“I’ve been really pleased with my team’s performance over the whole tournament,” coach Jessica Bryan said. “They’ve played really good team ball, everyone has stepped up and all of them are playing extremely well. So, that worked in our favor. …
“It’s consistency as a team and individually. Early in the season, we kind of had a rough start. We had some inconsistency where we’d see some really good things as a team and individually and then we’d see some inconsistency. The last three games we’ve been very consistent.”
The Southwest girls and boys host rival Ragsdale on Friday, starting at 6 p.m.