There have been times during the 2014-15 N.C. high school girls’ basketball season when Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson wondered about her team’s focus. The Mustangs were winning easily and seemed to be almost waiting for the serious part of the Class 4A playoffs to arrive.
Thursday night at Lawrence Joel Coliseum, that moment arrived in the state quarterfinals. The Mustangs were focused and ready – and they sent a serious message to the rest of the state.
Myers Park (27-1), ranked No. 6 in USA Today’s national poll, whipped previously unbeaten Winston-Salem Reynolds 64-36, unveiling a withering man-to-man pressure defense and getting a dominant performance from senior forward D.D. Rogers. The Mustangs advanced to Saturday’s regional final against unbeaten Northwest Guilford (28-0), ranked No. 11 nationally.
And make no mistake, Nelson thinks her team is ready to defend its regional championship and become only the second 4A girls’ program from Mecklenburg County to reach the state final in back-to-back seasons. West Charlotte went in both 2008 and 2009. The Lions won the 2009 championship.
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Myers Park, which won the 2014 title, can become the first 4A Mecklenburg girls team to repeat.
“I thought we played great defense tonight, and I thought we stuck to the game plan,” a giddy Nelson said after the win. “The key to them is (sophomore point guard Tierra Wilson). She scores about 20 per game and she does it by knocking down 3s. We used (junior) Chanin Scott on her, who is 6-foot tall with long reach. We said, ‘If you can score, it will be from 24 feet or more.’”
Wilson finished with three points, and Myers Park just suffocated Reynolds defensively. The Demons had 17 points with 3:39 left in the first half. They had 26 with 5:58 to play in the game. And unable to score, Reynolds couldn’t employ its trademark full-court pressure defense that forced the Mustangs into eight turnovers in the first eight minutes.
“We were so pumped coming into this game,” Mustangs senior Aliyah Mazyck said. “We were like, ‘Let’s go be the best we can be. This is senior year. Everybody doubts us.’ They say ‘Y’all can’t repeat. Myers Park can’t make history. You don’t have a chance.’ I’m just so excited. We do have a chance.”
Myers Park got 18 points from Scott and nine from freshman point guard Lyric Mitchell. Rogers, an All-American signed to N.C. State, was double-teamed most of the game, but controlled the inside with seven points, 14 rebounds, five steals, five blocks and four assists. Mazyck, another All-American signed to Southern Cal, had 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“This is as well as we’ve played all year,” Nelson said. “They’re very focused. I think they’re ready. Saturday (playing another nationally-ranked team) will be fun, won’t it? It’s great for girls’ basketball in North Carolina. I can’t wait.”