02/14/14 — Success broadens outlook for Rosewood girls

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Success broadens outlook for Rosewood girls

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 14, 2014 1:49 PM


Too much purple and not enough gold.

That's what the Rosewood High girls' basketball team sees each time it views the banner recognizing the program's conference championship years hanging in the gymnasium.

Three titles is not enough.

A fourth might come in the next few days.

Weather permitting, the No. 5-ranked and once-beaten Eagles could claim their first Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season crown since 2007 tonight against archrival Princeton. School administrators from both counties met with their respective Boards of Education this morning to obtain permission to play the games. A decision is expected this afternoon.

If those contests are not played, Rosewood gets another chance Saturday against Lakewood. Tip-off is approximately 4:30 p.m. at Rosewood Middle School.

"The plan at the beginning, the first day in October when we met, I told the kids we wanted to put another number on that banner hanging up there because there weren't enough numbers for girls' basketball," first-year RHS head coach Rick Grantham said.

"We need to put a number up there."

The girls' response? OK.

However, the overall picture has gotten a little bigger 3 1/2 months into the season. Rosewood (18-1 overall, 11-0 Carolina) has the opportunity to clinch home-court advantage in the postseason and possibly advance to the east regionals for the first time in program history.

They've won 14 consecutive games and are 10-0 on the road.

"We take each game at a time and I know that is cliche, but you can't look to the playoffs, yet" Grantham said. "You have to finish what you've got (in front of you). Peaking at the end is what we're trying to do."

The recent inclement weather has eliminated valuable practice time. Grantham admitted his team looked a little ragged during the opening quarter against James Kenan this past Monday.

The Eagles regrouped and swept the regular-season series from the Tigers in convincing fashion, 69-48. Kenan had closed the gap to 53-40, but went 4 1/2 minutes without a field goal. Its top scorer -- Dezarae Phillips -- foul out during that stretch.

Grantham reminds his team in practice and on game day that they can control two things -- their effort and their execution.

They've gotten high marks so far.

Sophomore guard Lexi Mercer is the engine. The remaining starting four -- Krystal Yelverton, Hayley Mercer, Deziree Baker and Alicia Burns -- are the pistons that consistently fire on all cylinders.

Mercer has logged four consecutive double-doubles and nine overall this season. She averages 26.7 points, 9.9 rebounds a game and has surpassed the 30-point plateau on nine occasions.

Burns is the second-leading scorer with 11.8 points an outing and shoots 71 percent from the free throw line. She is third on the team in free throw attempts with 45 behind Mercer (163) and Baker (49).

Yelverton knocks down 8.5 points. The diminutive guard leads the team in assists (72), is second in steals (66) and one of six Eagles who has collected 70-plus rebounds for the season.

Baker posts 5.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and shoots 40 percent from the floor. Mercer's contributions aren't always reflected in the boxscore. She has 53 total rebounds and shoots 38 percent from 3-point range.

"When Dez is rebounding, Krystal is handling and distributing (the ball), Alicia is scoring, Lexi defending and Hayley playing so dad-gum hard, that combination works," Grantham said. "We come off the bench with three -- Callie (Thornton) gives us energy, Hannah (Daniels) can score the ball certain nights and Nekia (Williams) just plays tough.

"That's our formula and so far, it's worked."