03/06/11 — Cougars' run comes to a close

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Cougars' run comes to a close

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 6, 2011 1:51 AM

FAYETTEVILLE -- Size and muscle should have won.

Heart and determination did, instead.

Undermatched at every position on the court, No. 5-ranked Southwest Onslow out-hustled Goldsboro in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A eastern girls' basketball final Saturday afternoon. Regional MVP Janika Williams poured in 30 points in the Stallions' 54-38 victory at Crown Arena.

Southwest (24-3 overall) opposes Bishop McGuinness for the state championship next Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.

"This group of young ladies has had the biggest heart of any team that I've had in 12 years," said Stallions' head coach Bev Marley. "We talk about the fact that they're not the most-skilled, but they play together and they have just a drive about them. They trust in God. They know that He is making a way for us, and that we are just believing this is our year."

The Stallions corralled every loose ball, scrapped on the boards and stayed active on defense to disrupt the Cougars' rhythm. Goldsboro committed 10 costly first-quarter turnovers and played from behind the remainder of the game after giving up a 13-2 run.

The Cougars rallied within 21-18 with about 2 1/2 minutes left before halftime. Brandy Johnson's offensive putback, and Talaya Lassiter's 3-pointer off Johnson's steal and assist highlighted an 8-2 surge.

"We were pretty much out of synch on what we were supposed to do," said Goldsboro head coach Latina Bullock-Davis. "We didn't take care of the basketball like we should have and that cost us the game, basically. The intensity just wasn't there in the beginning.

"We picked it up, but for some odd reason, they weren't there. Stuff just wasn't clicking."

Shatoria Exum's 3-pointer off Johnson's assist kept the Cougars within striking distance at 31-28. But Goldsboro's inability to handle Southwest's pressure defense led to a back-breaking, 12-1 run in the final four minutes.

The Stallions, who have no one taller than 5-foot-6 on their roster, galloped freely in the transition game as the taller Cougars succumbed to 11 turnovers. Williams had eight points, all off turnovers, in that span.

"At halftime, we just talked about coming out and playing our game," said Marley. "We knew we were faster and we thought that if we could run them more, it would be a disadvantage to them. We went full-court man and made them work for everything they had.

"It ended up paying off."

Southwest pulled away in the final period and claimed its first-ever, girls' regional championship in school history. Goldsboro was denied its first appearance in the state finals since 1982 when Mary Bryan Carlyle was head coach, and the school competed in the 4-A Mideastern Conference.

Kasheika Wallace led the Cougars with nine points and nine rebounds. Alex Myles (seven rebounds) and Talaya Lassiter (five assists) tallied eight points apiece. Exum provided six points off the bench.

"They have done marvelous this year," said Bullock-Davis of her team. "We would have loved to make it to next Saturday, but making it to the regional championship lets people know and ourselves know that we have it in us to make it happen.

"At this particular time (of year), it's the team who fights the hardest and wants it the most. That's what it boiled down to (today)."