CHAPEL HILL In 25 years with The Observer, Ive covered 17 N.C. 4A championship basketball games, which speaks to how strong Charlotte-area basketball really is.
The one thing that separates the Olympic High team that won a 4A title Saturday night from the others Ive seen is that there isnt a true superstar among these Trojans. Most of the other great teams had one player, or two, who would always dominate and always be the story.
Olympic beat Raleigh Broughton 56-53 Saturday at the Smith Center and became the first Mecklenburg County team to go unbeaten and win an N.C. High School Athletic Association championship since West Charlotte did it in 1986.
And with Olympic, you just never know who will break your heart.
Ive seen point guard Jevon Patton do it in the playoffs, dominating a promising 7-foot freshman named Raekwon Long, from Garinger High, who was assigned to try to slow him down. Ive seen 6-foot-5 senior forward Trey Mitchell do it, with his jitterbug inside-out game, or 6-6 senior center B.J. Gladden, with his powerful post moves. Earlier this year, junior guard C.J. Jackson hit a floater to beat Harding at the buzzer, at home, and keep the Trojans unbeaten season alive.
Saturday in Olympics first basketball state championship game, it was 6-5 senior guard Deriece Parks. When Olympic really needed it, Parks banged in some huge 3-pointers to give his team room. Some of them wouldve been behind the NBA 3-point line.
And when Olympic really needed it, Parks sank free throws with the game on the line and everyones hearts beating a little harder.
Thats the special thing about this team, Mitchell said, standing on a podium in a postgame media session. We have so many threats and its so hard for the other team to guard us. Coach (Ty Baumgardner) doesnt stress offense because he knows its going to come. We stress defense, and we were focused and ready to come through tonight and thats what we did.
Make no mistake, though, the Trojans came through in large part because Parks came up so big.
Baumgardner had seen most of his other regular rotation players have marquee performances in the playoffs, but Parks who has incredible shooting range hadnt shot the ball well and hadnt had his breakout game.
Baumgardner figured it was his time.
I kept telling them all week, Baumgardner said, Deriece is due. Hes due.
Parks didnt score in the first quarter, but he terrorized Raleigh Broughton in the next three.
With Broughton players running and jumping at his shooting hand like their lives depended on it, Parks stood in and sank 4 of 8 3-point attempts. The first one came with Olympic up one point. Ditto for the second. The third came with Olympic up two. The last with Olympic up five.
And Parks hit 5 of 6 free throws late in the fourth quarter. The first gave the Trojans a five-point lead with 3 minutes, 23 seconds to play. The next two broke a 48-48 tie. His final pair with 47.2 seconds left gave the Trojans a 52-48 lead.
Every shot mattered.
I just let the game come to me, Parks said. When my teammates needed me to score, I scored, and when I was open I shot it.
Baumgardner said Parks huge night, on what is probably the biggest night in school history, wasnt anything out of the ordinary.
He had a great game and he did what hes done all year, Baumgardner said. He makes baskets. He guards and he makes huge free throws late. But hes just one of the 12. Hes one of the pieces of this team. We are a true team.
And that team is state champion.
Wertz: 704-612-9716; twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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