Becca Jones remembers how she felt about the girls’ varsity basketball team at Charlotte Latin when she was playing in middle school.That Hawks team made it to the state tournament.In 2008 – Jones’ seventh-grade year – the Charlotte Latin team finished the season 4-23, including a first-round loss in the state tournament by 26 points.The Hawks didn’t make the state tournament the next three seasons.“Obviously you looked up to them, but everyone sort of knew that they’re not, like, the best team,” Jones said. Jones and fellow senior Brooke Brown, with head coach Deb Savino, have spent the last four years trying to change that reputation.Last year, they helped the Hawks to their first playoff appearance since the 2008 season. This year, Jones and Brown are the leading scorers and rebounders on a team that started the season with eight straight wins and already has won more games this year (12) than it had all last season (10).“We’ve come a long way, and a big part of it is these two,” said Savino, whose first year as head coach at Latin was Jones’ and Brown’s freshman year. “They’ve listened and learned and figured out how to play. Figured out how to lead, you know, and helped their teammates when they needed it. So they’ve really helped with our overall change.” Brown, who came to Latin in sixth grade, and Jones, who started at Latin in kindergarten, have played together since seventh grade. “We just know each other,” said Jones. “I know what Brooke’s going to do when she gets the ball and, like, I even know where to go rebound if she’s going to miss it.”The two players have nearly identical stat lines in points – Jones averages 10.9 per game and Brown averages 9.9 – and rebounds – 7.5 for Jones, 7.3 for Brown. They’re listed at the same height, 5-foot-11, and age, 17. But their style of play is different.Brown, listed as a center, is a calm player who can bang around inside and get points around the rim. Jones, a forward, is more high-energy and runs the floor for Latin. If the Hawks run a four outside, one inside offense, Jones will be on the perimeter. She even leads the team in three-point attempts, according to Savino. She’s active on defense, leading the team with 3.6 steals a game.The two have started on varsity since their freshmen years at Latin.“They both did their jobs as freshmen and sophomores, but they didn’t average what they are now or what they did last year,” Savino said. Jones averaged 11 points and seven rebounds last year. Brown averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds. That team finished 10-15, made it to the N.C. Independent School Athletic Association 3A state tournament and lost in the second round to eventual state champion Providence Day.“That was a major accomplishment for us and it just kind of gave us that boost of confidence and encouragement that we could play,” Brown said of making the playoffs. “We can play basketball and we’re right up there with some of the top players and top teams in our conference.”The Hawks started this season with eight straight wins, including a three-point win against Ravenscroft and a two-point victory at Cuthbertson in December. “I would say in the past we would panic when we had close games, and (Brown and Jones) helped us not do that this year,” Savino said. Latin prides itself on defense, a key to its success. The Hawks have held opponents to less than 40 points per game. Every player and coach in the program has a blue bracelet with the word “Defense” printed on it.“We haven’t been known for scoring a lot of points all these four years,” Savino said. “If we could keep their score low, we figured we had a chance. So it’s really been putting in the time and effort to play the correct defense.” The Hawks like to run the court on offense and score points in transition. That helped them win many early games, but opposing teams have learned to get back on defense, making it harder for Latin to score quickly.Since the 8-0 start, the Hawks are 4-7, including a 0-3 start in the conference. Savino wants the team to get better at running a half-court offense.The Hawks are still young; the starting backcourt is all freshmen and sophomores. There is one junior and three seniors on the team; the rest are underclassmen, making experienced players like Brown and Jones important parts of the Hawks program. “We kind of have to step into that leadership role,” Brown said. “They’re already good players, naturally, so we’re just kind of there to guide them. Like when we play a really tough team, how to stay calm and just play your best and have fun.” The seniors’ leadership extends beyond the court and the varsity team. They help with basketball camps for younger players at Charlotte Latin and go to some middle school games to cheer on the Hawks. “We really just want to … make the program more enjoyable and something to look forward to for all the younger kids that are coming up,” Brown said.The Hawks have fielded a junior varsity for the second year in a row. The program didn’t have a JV team Savino’s first two years. The seventh- and eighth-grade middle school teams have 15 players each, a first in Savino’s tenure. “We’ve built up that love of the game at this point,” Savino said. “These two are a big part of that.” Jones also plays on the field hockey and soccer teams at Charlotte Latin. Those two teams have combined for seven state championships in the since Jones has been in high school. Brown played on the volleyball team, a program that has won the last nine state championships. “So many teams at Latin have a great tradition,” Jones said. She hopes that the girls’ basketball team will soon be one of them. This story went to print before Charlotte Latin’s Jan. 25 game against Cannon School.
Friday, Jan. 25, 2013
Senior duo helps lead Charlotte Latin’s turnaround
Jones and Brown propelled Charlotte Latin to playoffs last year – the first time since 2008
Charlotte Latin senior basketball players Becca Jones, left, and Brooke Brown have nearly identical stats and have helped improve a Hawks girls' basketball program that has struggled in recent years. COREY INSCOE - email@example.com
Charlotte Latin senior forward Becca Jones averages 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game. COURTESY OF ELLEN KAZURA
Charlotte Latin senior center Brooke Brown averages 9.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. COURTESY OF ELLEN KAZURA