02/22/08 — NCISAA 1-A Elite 8 - Wayne Country Day, Wayne Christian eliminated

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NCISAA 1-A Elite 8 - Wayne Country Day, Wayne Christian eliminated

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 22, 2008 2:29 PM

CARY -- Terry Jones quietly exited the locker room.

The Wayne Country Day coach put his hands in his pockets, sighed and looked down the Cary Academy hallway through reddened eyes. Jones gathered his thoughts and choked back a tear or two.

His emotions reflected that of his team, players who openly shed tears after a season-ending, 62-48 loss to Trinity Christian-Fayetteville on Thursday evening. The state-ranked Chargers, for the fourth time in the last five seasons, lost an elite eight contest in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A playoffs.

But Jones and his team weren't alone.

Wayne Country Day's girls, minus two key performers, endured a 55-44 setback against Terra Ceia. And Wayne Christian, in its first-ever elite eight appearance, succumbed to pressure defense and turnovers in a 52-32 loss to perennial power Word of God.

"Tonight concluded our entire season, in a way," said Jones. "Our last couple of ball games, we really haven't played extremely well. We've won a few here and there, but these last four or five games, we've digressed in some points."

Trinity (29-4 overall) bolted to an early lead and kept its advantage until late in the third quarter. Down by 10, the Chargers erased the deficit in a 120-second span. David Wilson and Reco McCarter each drained a 3-pointer, and Rashid Williams' buzzer-beating, 18-footer forged a 39-39 tie.

However, Wayne Country Day (22-8) couldn't keep the momentum.

The Chargers misfired on five of their first six possessions in the final quarter. Trinity converted six consecutive free throws to lead 45-39, but Floronta Wynn cut the deficit in half with a 3-pointer.

"I told the guys we needed to maintain, play smart," said Jones. "We had a point where our hustle, our heart and our minds came together. Then, after making that push, we had a lapses that gave them that lead back.

"Even in our hustle, we gave up a couple of easy baskets. That's heart-wrenching, when you use up all that willpower to get back in it."

Trinity answered with a 10-0 run and earned its second consecutive berth in the final four and fourth overall since 2003. Chris Ward led four Crusaders in double figures with 20 points. Jon Velez added 13, followed by Anthony Papillion (12 points) and Juliano Sanchez (11).

McCarter and Wynn scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Chargers.

Wayne Country Day's girls, coming off their first-ever playoff win in more than a decade, couldn't match Terra Ceia's intensity from the opening tip. The Chargers also missed Mack Thompson and Shelle Anderson, who didn't play due to a school-related trip.

The absence depleted WCDS' depth and took away one scorer from the lineup. Sterling Coggins filled in admirably with a six-point effort and Danielle Holland provided quality minutes.

"We didn't match their intensity level required for a state-playoff game," said Chargers coach Eric Perry. "Credit Terra Ceia, they were ready. We just couldn't make the adjustments necessary during the course of the game, and couldn't close the deal by making key plays.

"We only had one day to practice without two of our players."

Guard Jordan Cantrell seized control of the game early and staked Terra Ceia to a 13-6 lead after one quarter. The advantage ballooned to 24-14 before the third-seeded Chargers (17-8) pulled within 24-17 on Brooke Norris' 3-pointer off Catherine Ford's assist.

The Knights rebuilt their 10-point advantage in the third quarter, only to see the Chargers pull within two points on three occasions. Wayne Country Day couldn't convert the key possessions and Cantrell, who led all scorers with 27 points, constantly found ways to put the ball in the basket.

"She's a player and when we overcompensated for her, she found the open man," said Perry. "I couldn't be more proud of my girls for their effort, but the execution was lacking."

Bridgette Briggs recorded a double-double, 16 points and 16 rebounds, for the Chargers, who had their program-best 15-game win streak snapped. Ford and Norris added nine and seven points, respectively.

Word of God made its first bucket of the game and immediately set up in a full-court press. Two turnovers later, the fourth-seeded Holy Rams (13-8) owned a six-point lead and eventually gained a spot in the final four.

Wayne Christian (14-8) climbed within two points early in the second quarter on back-to-back baskets by Hope Wright, but Word of God responded with a 15-2 run to lead 29-14 at the break. The Eagles couldn't overcome 20 first-half turnovers and finished with 31 for the game.

"Word of God's pressure defense and quickness threw us off our game," said Wayne Christian coach Lee Price. "We could never get into our offensive sets and we turned the ball over too many times during their pressing."

Wright led the Eagles with 16 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Hanna Kaler supplied 10 points and eight rebounds. Jennifer Price dished out six assists.