Our very own Lady Canes have done it again. For the second year in a row, Cape Hatteras Secondary School’s (CHSS) girl’s basketball team has gone undefeated to earn the title of NC 1A Conference Champions and qualify for the state playoffs. Though the team was defeated in the 4th round of state playoffs last year, they have come with a renewed determination to prove their merit this year. Led by coach Earl Fountain and assistant coach Jordan Tomberlin, the team kicked off their playoff season last night in a game against Pender High School.
“It feels good. The girls should be very proud of themselves, and what they’ve accomplished,” said Coach Fountain.
What makes this accomplishment perhaps even more astonishing is it came even after the loss of last year’s seniors Caroline Gray, the top scorer out of CHSS who now plays for the University of Mount Olive, and Savannah Scarborough, a tough player in her own right and a Lady Canes’ point guard known for keeping her team steady on the court.
“This year, the girls had to learn to play together as a team, instead of relying on Caroline,” said Coach Fountain.
In the first round of state competition last night, this year’s Lady Canes proved that they can work as a team and fight till the end despite arduous setbacks.
The Lady Canes hosted Pender High School at home in front of an intimidatingly large crowd of local supporters. The PHS Patriots drove more than four and a half hours from Burgaw, however, so they were not going home without a fight.
CHSS started the game off strong with 2 points from senior captain Morgan Fairbanks. Lady Canes moved the ball fluidly between the opposing team thanks to their point guard, senior Nyah Machie. The girls fought hard, with Cheyenne Gaskill and Eliza Quidley wrestling with the Patriots on two separate occasions to win possession. Sophomore Laya Barley additionally took a hit on defense for her team. Junior Captain Lexus Meekins scored a buzzer beater to end the first quarter. Despite the efforts of the Lady Canes, Patriots were up with a score of 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Machie gave her team 4 points in the second quarter, including one where she slapped the ball away from PHS at half court allowing her to do a layup uninhibited. Baskets from Co-Captains Fairbanks and Meekins put the Lady Canes in the lead. Help also came from Hannah Curcio who scored a 3-pointer at the buzzer leaving the Lady Canes up at half time with a score of 21-25.
At half time, the cheer team performed the routine which won First Place at their competition this past weekend to pump up the crowd and show off their award-winning moves.
The third quarter led off with 3 pointers from both Fairbanks and Quidley. Machie ended the quarter with yet another buzzer beater leaving CHSS up with a score of 36-27.
During an exciting fourth quarter, both teams raised the stakes. With only a minute and a half left in the game, PHS gained the lead for the first time since the first quarter. After travel calls and turnovers on both sides, the teams were tied at the end of the fourth quarter lending to a nail-biting series of overtimes.
Lady Canes won possession easily at the start of the first overtime. Machie and Fairbanks earned a collective 11 points, but Patriots soon caught up after a few 3-pointers and tied the game at 59-59 to bring about another overtime.
PHS came out in front with an impressive 3-pointer at the beginning of the second overtime, but CHSS was not to be defeated. After a foul shot from Meekins and a basket from Sophie Waterfield, Lady Canes gained some much-needed momentum. Meekins fought for possession to hand the ball off to Fairbanks who scored with only 15 seconds left in the game, tying the score at 64-64 to make for yet another overtime.
It was a back and forth game in the third overtime with no clear winner. CHSS lost two players – Machie to fouls and Meekins to an injury. Despite these setbacks, sophomore McKayla Gordon scored the final 2 points to secure the win for CHSS and their advancement to the second round of the state playoffs.
“We have faced some challenges this season as does any team who loses players each year. We have had to learn to work as a team again,” Meekins said of her team.
The girls fought incredibly hard and, more importantly, worked together to earn their victory. For the next round, Coach Fountain hopes the Lady Canes will maintain their good defense, but work on shooting and eliminating the number of turnovers. CHSS will play the Riverside High School in the second round of state playoffs at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 28, in the CHSS gym.
“I always tell the girls they have to give 100% out there. They really did; they came through in the clutches,” Coach Fountain said.
The Boys JV team, coached by Paul Ranno, also won their conference championship after a defeat of Bear Grass Charter School last week 37-33.
Congratulations to both teams for making their school and community proud!