Villains romp past Lake Norman Charter 83-62
The Bishop McGuinness girls, from the start, meant business. After all, this is the regionals — where no Villains team has ever lost.
Bishop clamped down defensively, forcing a seemingly endless number of turnovers that led to easy layups, and led big early in rolling to an 82-63 win Tuesday in the NCHSAA 1A regional semifinals in UNCG’s Fleming Gymnasium.
Tessa Johnston scored 17 points to lead four double-figure scorers for the defending state champion Villains (23-7), who will face Cherokee, which beat North Wilkes 71-38, in the regional final Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at UNCG.
Olivia DeFrancesco also scored 15 points, going 10 of 14 from the free-throw line, and dished four assists while Tia Cappuccio had 12 points and Julia Brown had 11. Bishop shot 49 percent from the field and made 37 of 52 free-throw attempts for the game.
“We’re very happy to get the win,” said Brian Robinson, in his 11th season as head coach at Bishop. “I thought we played very well from start to finish. We’ve been looking for that kind of effort all season long. I’m glad we played that well night. ...
“(The turnovers) were just something we had a feel for. Our goal was to get the ball out of (Alex Busch’s) hands. I thought we could scramble them a little bit and that could throw their offense some. Fortunately, we got into their passing lanes and it led to some easy layups for us.”
The Villains’ defensive pressure caused the Knights (24-6) tremendous problems, particularly during the opening minutes of the first three quarters. They threw three different pressure defenses at them that caused 26 turnovers for the game, including 15 in the first half alone.
That allowed Bishop to quickly get out in transition to score easy baskets and draw fouls in building a big lead early, keyed by a 19-3 run over the first and second quarters to lead 25-8 with 5:43 left in the half. The game, in large part, was in their control from that point on.
“It frazzled them a little bit,” said Johnston, a sophomore guard, of the pressure defense that led to easy baskets, “when you’re down there, you think you have a pass and you throw the ball away and the other team gets a layup.”
Lake Norman Charter (24-6), led by Alex Busch, who finished with 24 points, did trim it to 33-23 at halftime. Bishop, however, opened the second half on a 10-1 run to lead 43-24 with 4:39 left in the third. Its lead reached 58-36 heading after three and peaked at 27 in the fourth.
“We talked about just getting a little more intense, a little more focused,” Robinson said. “There was nothing really that scientific with us at halftime. I trust these kids. They’ve done a good job maturing. And they came out with a lot of focus in the third quarter and set the tone for how the game finished out.”
Sierra Wiley added 20 points while Ezinne Mbamalu had 10 for the Knights, who were playing in the regionals for the first time. Lake Norman Charter did shoot 54 percent from the field for the game, but the overwhelming pressure was simply too much for them to escape.
“We obviously struggled a little bit in that first half,” Knights coach Bobby Williams said. “Their press surprised us, and that really was a shock to me because we’ve handled presses all year long and theirs was nothing special. We had players dribbling with their heads down, not meeting the ball.
“But congrats to them — they just performed. I don’t know if it was the stage we were playing on or what, but it took us a while to get going. ... Second half was a little better, but unfortunately for us they hit about 95 percent of their free throws.”
So, the Villains — now 15-0 in regional play after winning a record-setting seven straight state titles — once again are playing well in the state playoffs, as they prepare to face the Braves in the regionals for the third straight year (second straight year in the finals).
“It’s important to be confident and not be cocky,” said Brown, a junior forward. “Winning does give you a confidence boost. Getting a big lead at the beginning does give you the confidence to finish out the game strong, knowing you have a cushion just in case.”
“We have confidence, but then again we did let this team score 60 points on us,” sophomore guard Alex Putman added. “So, that’s something we definitely have to work on.”