In the past two years, Myers Park High’s girls basketball team went into the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs nationally ranked and heavily favored to win a state championship. Two years ago, the Mustangs lost in the state semifinals. Last year, it fell in the third round.
Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson, in her second season with the Mustangs, thinks her team has learned from all that.
“What’s happened is we’ve matured,” said Nelson, whose team started the 2014 playoffs nationally ranked and heavily favored again. Myers Park beat Berry 68-29 Monday. “This team has matured so much, from top to bottom, throughout the year.”
Nelson is the best girls basketball coach to ever work in Mecklenburg County. She won seven state championships at Providence Day and built a dynasty in the mid 80s that still stands today. She went to college and turned Wingate into a regional power and now she’s back in high school at a place that’s teetered on big-time success a few times over the past 10-15 years, but never like this.
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Nelson can become a rare Mecklenburg County coach to win public and private school state championships in her career. Dave Price once did that, first at South Mecklenburg and then with Providence Day on the boys side.
And Nelson’s Mustangs have overwhelmed most of their opponents the same way they did Berry Monday. It was 20-6 after the first quarter and 48-15 at halftime.
Myers Park suffered its first regular-season loss in three seasons in Florida during a Christmas tournament in December, falling 70-58 to Blackman (Tenn.), a team that happens to be ranked No. 1 in MaxPreps’ national poll. Hardly anyone else has come close. Nelson’s team is No. 12 nationally, winning by an average of nearly 34 points.
Monday night, junior forward Rydeiah Rogers, the daughter of former Wake Forest All-American Rodney Rogers, had 17 points and 15 rebounds. Junior point guard Aliyah Mazyck had 12 points and eight assists. Senior guard Saadia Timpton and junior Morgan Uptegraff had 12 points.
Rogers and Mazyck are ranked among the nation’s top 60 players and have scholarship offers from schools in the ACC, SEC, Big 10 and Pac-10. Timpton, the only senior in the regular rotation, is a Davidson recruit.
“They have three Division I players, and anytime you have a high school team that has three D1s, boys or girls, they’re pretty awesome,” Mallard Creek coach Clarence Johnson said. “The only fear is that they haven’t had a chance to go toe-to-toe with too many monsters (quality teams) in awhile, but with their experience and making a third run, they should be in pretty good shape.”
Nelson knows the expectations are high.
“There’s internal pressure for all of us because we want to get it done,” she said. “We recognize there are things we cannot control. We can’t control how the other teams play the night we play them. We can’t control whether we have someone sick or injured. The things we can control is our preparation, our effort and hopefully our execution. We want to win this thing, but if we’re not the best out there, we’ll accept that as long as we do the things we’re supposed to do.”