Moments after Weddington High’s Stephanie Watts rallied her team past Morganton Freedom in the N.C. 3A quarterfinals, N.C. High School Athletic Association deputy commissioner Que Tucker said she had not seen a performance like that since she watched North Mecklenburg’s Andrea Stinson play in the late ’80s.
Stinson was a two-time Parade All-American who was once the national player of the year. She went onto become one of the best players in N.C. State history.
At Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Watts was that good in Friday’s 57-54 win, propelling Weddington to the first N.C. 3A Western Regional championship game in school history. The Warriors (29-1) will play Hickory at 6 p.m. Saturday.
With her team down 33-18 at halftime, Watts scored 15 of her team’s 18 points in the third quarter, when Weddington trimmed the lead to 43-36. She had 12 points in the fourth quarter plus a big assist for Molly Mann with 40 seconds left. Mann’s 3-pointer gave Weddington a 56-54 lead.
Watts finished with 39 points and made nine 3-point shots. In her last three games, the McDonald’s All-American has made 28 3-pointers. On Friday, she had the third-most points by a girl in a Western Regional game. Her nine 3-point shots were second-most and her 27 second-half points broke a 26-year-old record.
“She’s been big in a lot of games for us,” junior guard Taylor Schuster said, “but to come out and dominate the second half and pull us back was huge. She’s an unbelievable player. There’s nothing like her.”
Watts struggled a little with her shot in the first half, but once she found it, she found it. Watts hit several NBA-range step-backs with Freedom defenders all over her. She hit one while literally falling down.
“At halftime,” Watts said, “I’m like, ‘My season is not ending here.’ There’s a different feeling in this open gym, and once I shot around a little bit more, it started clicking for me. Once I started making a couple, I get in my zone and the touch of the ball begins to feel better.”