02/27/05 — James leads Cougar women to regionals

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James leads Cougar women to regionals

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on February 27, 2005 2:13 AM

Ashelyn James won't be driving the bus to Greenville, but the senior center deserves credit for the Goldsboro women's basketball team's impending journey to compete in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A regionals.

James had 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting and 14 rebounds to lead the Lady Cougars over visiting Nash Central 70-57 on Saturday night for the Section No. 3 championship.

"Ashelyn really took things upon herself tonight," Goldsboro coach Gladys McClary said. "At this point, after playing varsity for three years, you should know when it's time to step up. She did a great job tonight.

"She's a very strong young lady. We knew she would be the key for us on the inside."

The Eastern Carolina 3-A champion Lady Cougars (26-3) will play again Tuesday evening at J.H. Rose High School -- despite trailing at halftime for the first time this postseason.

Nash Central (11-15) saw a 31-30 advantage disappear under the weight of 11 third-quarter turnovers. The Lady Bulldogs turned the ball over 28 times for the game.

Point guard Khaisha Thomas picked up her fourth foul late in the first half, forcing her to watch most of the miscues from the bench.

"I lost my main ballhandler," Nash Central coach Terri Cash said. "My other players did the best they could. But you take (Thomas) out of the lineup, it obviously hurts at this level."

The Lady Bulldogs, seeded No. 2 out of the Big Eight North 3-A, lost four players -- and a combined 30 points -- to second-half disqualifications.

Lady Cougars guard Chevoya Jackson scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half. Jessica Faison scored 12 points for Goldsboro, and Carmille Early added 10.

A layup by Early midway through the fourth quarter gave Goldsboro its first double-digit lead at 52-41.

"We came out in the second half and played exceptionally well," McClary said. "I'm a realist. I wanted our players to keep their composure and take advantage when we had the ball."

McClary also warned her players not to read too much into Nash Central's sub-.500 record.

"Anybody that makes the state playoffs deserves to be there," McClary said. "The records don't count. I don't care what a team's record is."

The Lady Bulldogs gave plenty of legitimacy to that argument most of the night.

Janna Oxendine closed the first quarter with one of her four 3-pointers, and the Lady Cougars committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers during the opening eight minutes as Nash Central assumed a 15-11 lead.

Oxendine finished with a team-leading 18 points.

"Janna's a great shooter," Cash said. "She's really learned how to get shots off the dribble. She shoots the ball a little too quick sometimes, but she's capable of knocking down big shots."

Goldsboro rides a 12-game win streak into Greenville -- the team's third straight berth in the regionals.

"I feel good about this team," McClary said. "The crowd here tonight was great. It felt like Nash Central brought half of their school with them. It felt like a regional playoff atmosphere. Playing in an atmosphere like the one tonight prepares you for what is ahead."

Notes: Nash Central's Sharmekia Dickerson scored 14 points before being ejected in the fourth quarter. ... Goldsboro was 14-of-24 from the free-throw line. ... Oxendine was 4-of-11 from 3-point range. ... Nickie Garner and Mikeda Graham scored three points each for Goldsboro.