03/07/13 — 3A East Regional: Warriors get rematch with West Craven

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3A East Regional: Warriors get rematch with West Craven

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 7, 2013 1:47 PM

No. 4-ranked Eastern Wayne certainly remembers its late-game breakdown at West Craven in late December.

The Warriors let their guard down in the latter stages and endured a stinging, three-point defeat -- their lone blemish on what has been the most-successful season in program history.

They've learned from those mistakes.

Now, they eagerly anticipate their second chance against the Eagles that comes tonight during semifinal-round play of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A eastern regional. Tip-off is 8:30 p.m. at the Crown Center in Fayetteville.

Chapel Hill, the state's No. 1-ranked team, faces Northern Guilford in the other semifinal. The winners meet Saturday at 4 p.m.

"I think it does help that we've seen West Craven and we do know what to expect from them," Wagner said. "We already know our mistakes from the last time we played them, and everyone knows what needs to be done. We have to keep our nerves about us because this a big stage.

"We have to work hard."

West Craven has an extra incentive.

The Eagles (25-5 overall) entered the regional unbeaten a year ago and were upset by Rocky Mount. Two starters graduated off of that team, but two key elements returned -- junior guard Jamie Cherry and senior track standout Nishedra Brown.

Neither player nor third-year head coach David Fernandez has forgotten last year's disappointing outcome.

"There were some internal expectations that we kept quiet throughout the year about getting back here," Fernandez said. "We felt like we were good enough to get back here, but the girls were still figuring out their roles, figuring out how to play with each other.

"We've got a few more bullets in the case this time."

An ankle injury sidelined Brown for the first meeting against the Warriors.

A two-time defending state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dash, the 5-foot-4 Brown is a nice compliment to Cherry in the backcourt. Cherry, who has seen nearly every junk defense thrown at her this season and on the AAU scene, knocks down nearly 26 points a game and grabs 5.7 rebounds a contest.

Five-foot-10 junior forward Kaylee Koerperich is the team's top rebounder. Junior tri-captain Jasmine Raynor plays in the backcourt, also. Softball standout Rendi Wetherington, a 5-2 freshman, has provided significant contributions off the bench.

Eastern Wayne (28-1) employed an effective, pressure-packed man-to-man defense against West Craven, and held a five-point lead in the fourth quarter. But when the Warriors sagged off of Cherry, the 5-6 guard made them pay dearly and sparked the Eagles' comeback.

"There were a few times when our girls retreated from Cherry when she was bringing the ball upcourt instead of being aggressive," Wagner said. "There was also Koeperich. Once we got Cherry trapped, we didn't do a good job of denying her the ball.

"She got the long pass and they got some two-on-ones against the backside of the press. It was a learning experience."

Wagner has since tweaked the defense and said some new wrinkles have been added for tonight's game. He hopes to force West Craven to make adjustments throughout the game.

Fernandez anticipates the pressure.

"The by-product of having Jamie is that everybody throws everything they have at you," Fernandez said. "We feel like we're comfortable going up and down the floor. We're fast and we match up fairly well.

"It's up to us to execute a gameplan and keep going."