Rosewood girls clinch first league title since 2007
By Kenneth Fine
Published in Sports on February 15, 2014 11:13 PM
PRINCETON -- Rosewood head coach Rick Grantham has been preaching it all season.
"I told them the first day, I said, 'If we're not here to put a number up on that banner, then why are we here? We're not just here to play. We're here to play for a championship,'" he said.
"I think you should have a bigger purpose than just playing. You can go play in the yard. If you're gonna play, play for something. Play for your teammates. Play for who you represent. Play for championships."
The Lady Eagles did just that in the final minutes of a highly-contested matchup against archival Princeton on Friday evening. They held on for a 66-60 win and clinched their first Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season championship since 2007.
"I think it's awesome," Grantham said. "That was the goal when we started."
However, the Lady Bulldogs ensured Rosewood's accomplishment of a banner season -- and an undefeated conference record -- remained in doubt the last few minutes.
Princeton led 56-55 with 1:43 left in regulation.
But a Lexi Mercer 3-pointer swung the momentum in the Lady Eagles' favor and back-to-back clutch plays by Alicia Burns extended Rosewood's lead. A senior, Burns scored 24 points and pulled down five boards.
Her most critical four points of the season came as she converted on two drives to the basket in the final 90 seconds to help her team escape Princeton with a win.
"I did not want to lose. I wanted to finish this year with a bang," Burns said. "And when we started getting down, I was really nervous, but I'm a senior and I need to be a leader, so I just put everyone on my back."
Mercer added 20 points and Deziree Baker's 12 rebounds were a big reason Rosewood won the battle of the boards 33-26.
One standout performance -- and accomplishment -- will live on in the memories of the players and fans far longer than the outcome. With 2:02 remaining in the first half, Princeton senior Savanna Massengill scored her 1,500th and 1,501st points in career.
The Bulldog standout was honored at midcourt and, after giving the crowd a shy wave, she received the game ball -- and a standing ovation from both her hometown and the visiting faithful.
"I was shocked. I didn't know how close I was," Massengill said. "I couldn't do it without my teammates. It makes me feel ... honored to have such a blessing. I love how small Princeton is. Everybody loves each other ... and it means a lot."
Massengill recorded a double-double during the game -- 26 points, 12 rebounds -- and has 1,514 career points. Her performance, and Charley Cox's 16-point outing, kept the game close for the duration.
Grantham said he preferred it that way.
"I like it close. I've always liked them close. I don't like the blowouts," he said. "That's not basketball. Basketball is when the kids are battling for all they got. I thought our kids gave a heck of an effort and so did Princeton.
"That was a basketball game right there."
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