Defense, rebounding lift Cougar girls
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 5, 2004 1:58 PM
GREENVILLE -- No game film.
No scouting report.
Goldsboro's eastern regional semifinal against East Chapel Hill could have been compared to a blind date. Would the Cougars survive those awkward first minutes, and settle down?
At first, the answer wasn't clear as the Wildcats unleashed a 9-0 run midway through the opening quarter. Goldsboro coach Gladys McClary burned a timeout in an attempt to soothe her team's nerves.
Goldsboro's Ashelyn James goes up for a basket as East Chapel Hill's Ambrosia Barnette tries to block the shot from behind.
When the Cougars returned to the court, they were ready to challenge and play with their opponent. They turned up their defensive intensity, crashed the boards and eventually prevailed 54-41 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A contest at J.H. Rose on Thursday evening.
Goldsboro (29-1) extended its win streak to 20 games and faces Southern Durham for the eastern title at 5 p.m. Saturday.
"I personally went into this thinking we were comfortable and we had this," Cougar forward Ashelyn James said. "I think we may have gotten a little too comfortable. After they came back with the run, offensively and defensively, Jessica (Faison), Shemika (Hardy) and I could not get in synch.
"I think it was a lack of communication ... just one of those games."
Senior guard Clintoria Bryant jump-started the offense with a 3-pointer off Chevoya Jackson's assist. Bryant followed with another basket and James got loose underneath for an offensive putback. That quick spurt closed the gap to 11-9 after one quarter.
The Wildcats rebuilt their lead to 16-11 as the teams struggled to find any offensive rhythm. Each played physical on the defensive side of the ball, which disrupted each team's offense.
Bryant swished a 3-pointer off another Jackson assist to give Goldsboro a lead it would not relinquish. James notched the final four points of the period, giving the Cougars a 21-16 lead at the break.
"A great job by the guards because they carried us," James said.
McClary made a few subtle adjustments at halftime and reminded the team of two fundamentals -- defense and boxing out on rebounds.
The Cougars played a stifling 3-2 zone in the second half which prevented Karlyle Lim from penetrating the lane and dishing off underneath to either Danica Vance, Alix Barnette or Ambrosia Barnette. It was the same strategy McClary used last year to shut down Kinston phenom ShaShonna Moore in the Eastern Carolina Conference tournament final.
Bryant and Jackson pinched the middle near the free throw line and forced Lim to reverse her dribble. The senior point guard reset the offense numerous times, but could never find an open passing lane. As a result, the Cougars coerced the Wildcats into taking 3-pointers that were off the mark.
James continually crashed the boards along with Faison. Hardy did the dirty work by scrambling for loose-ball rebounds, or simply slapping the ball away from East Chapel Hill's post players.
"In either our conference or non-conference games, we never came across a real post player," James said. "A post player who knew how to use her body, knew her way around the basket, boxed out and was fearless.
"We weren't scared, but we weren't prepared for it."
The Wildcats' defense also prevented the Cougars from getting into a transition game. They had to grind it out in a half-court offensive set and find ways to get the ball inside to either James or Faison.
Jackson penetrated twice for uncontested baskets and hit one 3-pointer. Bryant's baseline jumper helped Goldsboro increase its lead to 30-23 heading into the final period.
The backcourt duo's offensive execution caused East Chapel Hill to extend its defense. That created passing lanes for the Cougars and James flourished by scoring seven of her 15 points in the final quarter. Faison added five and grabbed three key offensive rebounds.
"We are much quicker than the teams we've played, but we've still had to learn how to slow it down, and be able to run a half-court set," McClary said. "Fast-breaking is fine, but when a team gets back on defense and forces you into a half-court set, now is the time to execute your offense.
"The guards did a really good job recognizing when they had the fast break versus when they didn't have it."
Goldsboro did commit a few turnovers, but East Chapel Hill could never capitalize. The Wildcats were forced to foul as time became their enemy and the Cougars' ally. McClary's squad converted 11 of 16 free throws in the final quarter of action which sealed the victory and placed the Cougars in a regional title game for the first time since 1982.
2004 N.C. High School
Athletic Association Class 3-A
Eastern Regional semifinal
(at J.H. Rose HS)
Goldsboro 9 12 9 24 -- 54
E. Chapel Hill 11 5 7 18 -- 41
Chevoya Jackson 4 3 1-5 18, Shemika Hardy 1 0 0-2 2, Clintoria Bryant 3 2 2-4 14, Mikeda Graham 0 0 0-0 0, Jessica Faison 1 0 3-7 5, Ashelyn James 4 0 7-9 15. TOTALS -- 13 5 13-27 54.
EAST CHAPEL HILL (24-6)
Karlyle Lim 2 0 4-4 8, Katie Evans 0 0 0-0 0, Danica Vance 4 0 2-4 10, Jen Woelfel 1 0 0-0 2, Alix Barnette 3 2 2-5 14, Katherine Williamson 0 0 0-0 0, Ambrosia Barnette 3 0 1-2 7. TOTALS -- 13 2 9-15 41.
Three-point baskets -- Goldsboro 5 (Jackson 3, C. Bryant 2); E. Chapel Hill 2 (A. Barnette). Turnovers -- Goldsboro 13, E. Chapel Hill 14. Total fouls -- Goldsboro 13, E. Chapel Hill 23. Fouled out -- none. Technicals -- none.
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