NCHSAA Playoffs: East meets Thomasville in 2-A regional semifinal
The Chair City will have a team in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A state regional finals this weekend at UNC-Greensboro’s Fleming Gym. East Davidson and Thomasville will get to decide who that representative will be.
Wednesday’s regional semifinal is slated for 8:30 p.m. at UNCG. The survivor advances to Saturday when they will compete for a spot in the state championship game next week in Chapel Hill.
Pisgah and Bandys will battle it out in the other regional semifinal at 7 p.m.
Thomasville — the Central Carolina Conference’s regular season champion — has ripped through the competition in the playoffs, beating Forbush 70-32, Forest Hills 62-42 and North Surry 56-43. Currently 20-5, the Lady Bulldogs are looking unstoppable after losing to Lexington in the CCC tournament semifinals.
“I told the girls we want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year and I think we are,” said THS coach Brandon Staton. “We have played a tough schedule and that has gotten us prepared for the playoffs. Our conference was so competitive. You could not just show up some nights. You had to bring it every night.”
East’s season not long ago was headed in the wrong direction. Starting the year at a blistering pace, the Lady Golden Eagles (20-9) stumbled through the heart of the schedule, before correcting its course and getting back to the earlier success. As the No. 3 seed in the CCC tourney, East walked away with the championship and have kept the momentum flowing. Wins in the playoffs over Atkins (56-49), top-seeded T.W. Andrews (54-46) and Cuthbertson (50-40) have put them in position for the rubber match between CCC foes.
“They have calmed down, shown maturity and played fundamental basketball,” said coach Don Corry of East’s recent run. “We have taken better care of the ball in the latter part of the season and everybody has stepped up. They are playing really well together as a team.”
East Davidson won the first meeting, while Thomasville came back to claim the rematch. Wednesday’s game has a lot more at stake, and each side knows what they must do to still be playing this weekend.
For the Bulldogs, they must slow down freshman sensation Bayley Plummer, and make sure that other top players like Jennifer Welborn and Lori Morgan do not get hot. Plummer averages 15.9 points and 14.5 rebounds, not to mention swatting six shots a night. Welborn averages nearly 11 points and Morgan nets right at 10 points.
“Bayley is an exceptional player and if she is going, the others are going,” said Staton. “Lori and the other guards do a great job getting her the ball. It will be hard for us to contain her.”
East’s biggest obstacle will be escaping the THS pressure. Thomasville has averaged nearly 20 steals in the playoffs, most coming in their harassing, fullcourt pressure.
“We have to take care of the basketball,” Corry said. “Thomasville is fast and they are going to put pressure on us. If we can settle down and handle that, I think we will be in good shape. I think it is going to be a good game.”
Thomasville is led by senior point guard Joslyn Spires. Averaging a team-high 15 points, the speedy general on the floor has risen her play to the next level in her final season. The only senior on the team, she gets plenty of help from a pair of talented underclassmen. Freshman Timber Tate averages 14 points per contest and sophomore Christina Coleman is right behind her at 13.2.
At the 3-A level, the Ledford girls take aim at a spot in the regional finals as well. To get there, they must repay Harding University, who knocked them out of the playoffs last season in a 62-56 second round outcome. Game time is 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Fleming Gym.
The Lady Panthers (26-3) have not lost since the finals of the NewBridge Bank Christmas Classic, reeling off 16 consecutive victories with the last coming in the third round over North Iredell. After back-to-back losses, the Rams are on a 16-game winning streak of their own, taking out Carson in the last round. Harding has three players that average double figures. Junior Myicha Drakeford leads the team at 15.8 per contest, followed by 13.1 from 5-11 forward Brianna Hamrick. Senior guard Ralisha Currence and senior forward Abrea Harris average around 11 points each.
Ledford has just two averaging double figures paced by senior wing Emmalee Thomas. She pumps in 13.7 points a night, making 83 of her 208 attempted 3-pointers. Courtney Callicutt has an average of 12.6 points from her guard position.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.