By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 26, 2004 1:56 PM
SPIVEY'S CORNER -- The turnaround season of the Rosewood High girls basketball team came to an end Wednesday night in the shadows of the region's next dominant post player.
Six-foot-four sophomore Lauren Cochran scored 30 points and pulled down at least 20 rebounds as Midway eliminated the Eagles 58-51 in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association's Class 1-A basketball playoffs.
The game ended the season for the Lady Eagles, who went from a second-division team in the Carolina Conference to one of the league s contenders in just one season.
Coach June Hill's team played a gritty, tough game, coming back from 15 points down to take a one-point lead in the final period. But the Lady Raiders got balanced scoring with outside touch to compliment the phenomenal game Cochran was having in the post. In the end, Midway figured out how to beat the Rosewood press to pull the game out in the final two minutes
"I'm very proud of the girls," said Hill. "That's the best record for the girls basketball team at Rosewood in quite a few years. We had a slow start in the first period, but the hustle and drive kicked in."
The Eagles struggled at the start to find the basket, missing from outside and never getting the ball past Cochran in the paint.
Midway built a 17-7 early lead as Cochran hit for 12 first-half points and guard Jessica Autry was on nearly every loose ball. The Lady Raider guards simply threw high lobs into the post and Cochran would catch it and lay it in as the defense swatted at the ball beneath her.
The third period saw Rosewood make two adjustments -- pushing full-court pressure defense to stop Midway from running the ball in a half-court set, neutralizing Cochran; and sandwiching the big center between Rosewood's forwards away from the basket to clear room for the other rebounders.
The strategy paid off as Midway had 18 of its 32 turnovers in the second half. While Cochran continued to score, the second-chance baskets for Midway evaporated. Rosewood began to cut down the deficit, and got back into the game as Nikki Strawn scored 11 third-period points and joined Jessica Hill for some key steals.
The final two minutes saw the two teams go toe-to-toe. The Lady Raiders managed to convert at their end after solving the press by lobbing the ball into Cochran, which neutralized a lot of the pressure. Jamie Blackman went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the waning seconds to seal the win.
Blackman ended the night with 12 points for Midway.
Rosewood was led by 16 points from Strawn, 12 from Narron and 10 from Latitia Wade. It was the final game for Eagle seniors Strawn, Boren, Shanda White and Sarah Ardes.
"Jennifer developed and played her best ball this year," said Hill. "Nikki has always been consistent for us, and Shanda was a pleasant surprise for us early on. Her knee problems hurt us late, but she was a real asset."
Midway coach Tony Denning was complimentary of the opponent, which beat Midway earlier in the year.
"The game was an opposite to the early one," he said, "Then, Rosewood jumped out to a lead, and we caught them and they pulled away late. Rosewood is a good team. Their press reminds me of our 1990 team and how well they pressed.
"I have a lot of respect for June and the Rosewood program."
Denning also praised both teams for their good sportsmanship despite the high level of intensity to win. Hill was equally complimentary or the Lady Raiders.
"He's got a complete team," she said. "Their outside shooters did us in tonight, and they have the inside game as well. We did well to hang with them."
Hill said she and coach Jerry Narron have pledges to make next year's team even better.
"We'll work on outside shooting and we will be quicker and press even better next year," she said.
Midway will host North Johnston in Friday's sectional championship game.
2004 N.C. High School
Sectional No. 4 semifinals
(at Midway HS)
Rosewood 7 9 20 15 -- 51
Midway 17 9 14 18 --57
Nikki Strawn 6 0 5-6 16, Claire Narron 6 0 0-1 12, Latitia Wade 4 0 2-2 10, Jessica Hill 2 1 0-0 7, Jennifer Boren 1 0 1-3 3, Shonda White 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 20 1 8-13 51.
Lauren Cochran 12 0 6-6 30, Jamie Blackman 4 0 4-4 12, Martina Bullard 0 2 3-8 6, Jessica Autry 2 0 0-0 4, Charlene Slaughter 2 0 0-0 4, Jessica Griffin 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 21 1 13-18 58.
Three-point baskets -- Rosewood 1 (Hill), Midway 1 (Bullard). Turnovers -- Rosewood 13, Midway 32. Total fouls -- Rosewood 17, Midway 15. Fouled out -- Hill. Technicals -- none.
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