GREENSBORO Lake Norman Charter’s girls’ basketball team learned a few valuable lessons Tuesday night.
Don’t turn the ball over, don’t get in foul trouble and especially don’t let a team that hasn’t lost in postseason play in almost eight years get to the free-throw line.
The Knights had all of that happen in their N.C. High School Athletic Association Western Regional 1A semifinal, leading to an 82-63 loss to reigning state champion Kernersville Bishop McGuinness.
Alex Busch scored 24 points, Sierra Wiley added 20 and Ezinne Mbamalu had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Lake Norman Charter (24-6), which only led once in its first NCHSAA regional.
“They came out ready to play,” Knights coach Bobby Williams said. “I don’t know if it was the stage we were playing on or what, but it wasn’t our best game as a team.”
Tessa Johnson scored 17 points to lead three other players in double figures for the Villains (23-7), who will face Cherokee (28-2) for the regional title at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at UNC Greensboro. The Braves advanced Tuesday with a 71-38 victory over North Wilkes.
Lake Norman Charter’s problems were threefold.
First, the fouls – Wiley and Mbamalu sat out most of the first quarter after picking up two fouls each, and Mbamalu missed most of the second after getting her third.
That put most of the load on Busch, whose 15 first-half points kept Lake Norman Charter within 33-23 at the half.
Then, turnovers – the Knights committed 26, leading to a 26-8 Bishop McGuinness advantage in points off turnovers and a 14-2 edge in fast-break points.
Most of those came in the opening minutes of the first three quarters, as Lake Norman Charter had problems handling the Villains’ press.
“We struggled with that,” Williams said. “Their press surprised us, and that was shocking because we’ve handled presses all year long.”
The turnovers were especially key in the opening minutes of the second half. Bishop McGuinness converted on four of six steals with an 8-0 run, pushing a 10-point halftime lead to 18 with 5 minutes, 45 seconds left.
Finally, the free throws – trailing by 20 after three quarters, Lake Norman Charter was forced to foul. That allowed the Villains to close out the quarter by hitting 24 of 32.