02/28/09 — State champions: WCDS girls claim 1-A crown

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State champions: WCDS girls claim 1-A crown

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 28, 2009 11:03 PM

CHARLOTTE -- Brooke Norris dreamed about this moment.

Would she start the dogpile, which is synonymous with championship celebrations?

Would she throw the ball up in the air in joyous fashion?

Norris did neither.

Instead, Norris held the ball and squatted on the court as the final seconds ticked off the clock Saturday evening.

A three-decade wait had finally ended and the sting of last year's disappointing Elite Eight appearance quickly turned into a distant memory. Wayne Country Day finally proclaimed its supremacy on the high school women's basketball scene.

Senior all-state selection Bridgette Briggs provided a double-double -- 10 points, 18 rebounds -- as the Chargers upended Word of God 43-34 for the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A state title. Norris added nine points, five rebounds and four steals for the top-seeded Chargers.

"It's indescribable," said Norris of the state-title run. "I have no words. I never would have imagined being on any kind of team that would go this far, especially in my senior year.

"It's awesome."

Wayne Country Day (27-2 overall) claimed its first-ever state crown in program history.

"It's like a load off my shoulders," said second-year Chargers head coach Eric Perry. "I'd like to thank God, my assistant coach Tyler Fike and I couldn't ask for a better group of parents. But the credit goes to the girls.

"They set the goal at the beginning of the year to win a state championship. We said it was going to be hard and they said they were willing to work."

The Chargers, ranked No. 1 all season in the NCISAA poll, kept their poise against an athletic Holy Rams team. Perry's squad faced pressure defense and dealt with the challenge of defending Word of God's all-state pick, senior guard Kayelyn Rochester.

The teams battled to an 11-11 tie after one quarter.

Wayne Country Day entered halftime with a four-point advantage and steadily increased its margin throughout the second half. The Chargers outscored the Holy Rams 25-16 in the final 16 minutes of action.

"That was probably one of the most-athletic teams we've played," said Norris. "The refs let us play and it helped the game flow. It was more intense that way and I enjoyed it."

Briggs and fellow senior Shelle Anderson admitted the team felt nervous before the opening tip. Each agreed that once the game started, the butterflies disappeared and they no longer felt overwhelmed.

"We fell into our rhythm and started playing," said Anderson, who finished with four points and four rebounds.

Briggs added that it took the Chargers most of the first half to adjust to the game's tempo. In the second half, Wayne Country Day seized control and completed its historical run.

"We came out in the second half and played our game," said Briggs, a two-time all-state honoree. "I don't know about the other girls, but I started thinking about it (the state title) about halfway through the fourth quarter.

"As far as all-state, I wasn't surprised but I did think more people on the team would make it this year."

Freshman point guard Catherine Ford emerged one of three Chargers in double figures with 12 points. She dished out five assists. Kim Martell supplied 10 points and seven rebounds.

Sarah Best added two points.

Wayne Country Day reached Saturday's final with a 56-41 rout of defending state champion Trinity Christian School of Fayetteville on Friday evening. It was the third meeting of the season between the two perennial powers.

The fifth-seeded Crusaders held the lead on five occasions, including a 32-31 advantage with three minutes left in the third quarter. WCDS orchestrated a game-ending, 25-9 run and advanced to the state championship for the first time since 1976.

"I had to have one of my 'Coach Perry moments' as the girls call it," chuckled Perry. "I just challenged them and like they've done all season, they responded to the challenge. I said 'remember the feeling we had last year when we lost in the final eight.'

"Our guard play kept us in the game and then Bridgette got on a roll."

Perry also credited Martell for playing superb defense on Trinity's top player -- Chrissy Price, who eventually fouled out.

Briggs recorded a double-double -- 15 points, 12 rebounds. She also blocked five shots. Norris poured in a team-high 18 points to go along with four steals and five rebounds.

Ford contributed 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Martell collected seven points, seven rebounds and two steals.

"When things got tough, they didn't give up on each other and stuck with each other -- not like other teams I saw in this tournament," said Perry. "They believe in each other."

And now they're state champions.