Myers Park’s players and Myers Park’s coach said they knew exactly what West Charlotte would try to do to them in Friday’s N.C. 4A Western Regional semifinal. But from the start of the Lions’ textbook 80-55 win at Lawrence Joel Coliseum, it was apparent that Myers Park, which began the playoffs as a No. 23 seed, couldn’t do much about it.
The Lions (24-3), seeded third, advanced to Saturday’s regional championship using a withering man-to-man pressure defense and fast-breaking offense that Myers Park couldn’t handle. West Charlotte threw wave after wave of athletic 6-foot guards at Myers Park and all of them played incredibly intense defense. Three of them hit double figures in scoring, too: Nakia Rivers (12 points), Malik Massey (12) and Isiah Blackmon (28 points, eight rebounds).
Myers Park made 22-of-53 shots and turned the ball over 15 times. West Charlotte, meanwhile, made 26 layups and had four dunks.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” said senior guard Malik Massey. “We expect to jump on everybody when we come out. That’s our demeanor. We try to do that to everybody and get up and down as fast as we can. For the most part, no one has been able to keep up with us.”
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Nationally ranked Ardrey Kell will get to try next. The Knights beat Greensboro Page 65-55 to advance to their first regional championship just before the Lions took the court. So Ardrey Kell will try to advance to the first state championship in school history. West Charlotte, which has won five N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships, will hunt an eighth NCHSAA finals appearance and its first since 2012.
Mecklenburg County is guaranteed its eighth state championship representative in the past 11 years. In two additional seasons during that period, nearby Iredell County neighbor Lake Norman went to the finals.
Myers Park (16-12) won’t be playing in the first state final in school history this season, but the Mustangs -- who went 27 days without a win in December -- finished off a memorable season. This was Myers Park’s first regional berth in six years, and it was unexpected.
“We really had nothing to lose,” Mustangs senior guard Lee Houck said. “We were a 23 seed, and just getting to Wake Forest was a big accomplishment.”
The Mustangs, led by 21 points from Zaqwaun Matthews, fought all game but every time there was a miss or a rebound, West Charlotte was flying down the courts for dunks or layups in an eyeblink.
“That pressure just keeps coming,” Myers Park coach Wes Hepler said. “Every long rebound, every loose ball is picked up. It’s tough to get back with their transition offense. But it’s been an amazing run for us. It was unbelievable. It was only a week ago that we started this. It feels like a month. I know the guys are exhausted, but we didn’t have any expectations when we started this. And we’ll never forget it.”