02/20/13 — Wayne Country Day girls shake off nerves, clinch elite eight berth

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Wayne Country Day girls shake off nerves, clinch elite eight berth

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 20, 2013 1:47 PM

Wayne Country Day didn't lose its heart after all.

Disappointed by their effort in the Coastal Plains Independent Conference tournament final on Saturday evening, the Chargers rediscovered their desire at the right time Tuesday evening.

Seniors Sarah Best and Hannah Pearson shook off early-game jitters and combined for 36 points in a 48-31 triumph over Ahoskie Ridgecroft in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 1-A girls' basketball playoffs.

The Chargers (11-12 overall) face perennial Tarheel Independent Conference power Hobgood Academy at Covenant Day School in Charlotte on Thursday evening. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

"Once Sarah and Hannah got themselves together, everything flowed," WCDS head coach Eric Perry said. "It all starts up top with our senior leadership because they've been there and done that before, and it calms everybody else down."

Neither Best nor Pearson could find the mark offensively in the first couple of minutes. Each missed easy shots around the basket and appeared flustered until Best turned a steal into a layup around the 51/2-minute mark.

The turnover sparked a 14-0 run and pushed the Chargers in front 21-6 with just over six minutes remaining before halftime. Ridgecroft converted two steals into baskets and closed the gap to 21-12 at intermission.

Pearson took over in the third quarter and spearheaded an offense that shot a blistering 13 of 21 (62 percent) from the floor in the second half. She scored eight points off layups as Wayne Country Day extended its advantage to 35-19.

"We started playing the way we practice," Perry said. "I think we got our legs back, we switched defenses and the girls were focused on what we had to do (to win)."

Ridgecroft drained four meaningless 3-pointers in the final quarter when the outcome had nearly been decided. The Rams concluded the year 11-15 overall and were denied a third consecutive trip to the elite eight.

Pearson posted a double-double -- 21 points and 13 rebounds. Best flirted with a triple-double -- 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Lillian Freeman, Karis Hawkins (nine rebounds) and Maggie O'Daniel also scratched in the scoring column.

WCDS earned its sixth straight appearance in the elite eight.

"Against Oakwood (in the CPIC final), we didn't compete," Perry said. "I can take losing. I can't take not competing. We didn't play well at all times, but we competed tonight and that's all we ask of the girls."