CHAPEL HILL – East Lincoln coach Neil Hodges is a relative stranger to state championship games.
However, the Mustangs’ players are more familiar with the experience – and with winning a state title.
Eight players on East Lincoln’s boys’ basketball team were also on the school’s football team, which won the NCHSAA 2A state championship three months ago.
Now, many of those players are in key roles with the Mustangs’ basketball team, which will face defending state champ Kinston for the 2A title Saturday at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Smith Center.
“We had a lot of kids who played football, and four of those play major roles on both teams,” Hodges said during Monday’s NCHSAA press conference. “All those guys have experience going through this process.”
East Lincoln’s football team capped a 16-0 season by edging Washington 14-13 for the 2AA state title in December. Now, the Mustangs head into Saturday’s 2A title game with a 24-0 record.
A win Saturday would not only make East Lincoln the second high school to win state titles in football and boys’ basketball in the same school year, it would become the first to do so by going undefeated. Concord won football and boys’ basketball titles in the 2006-07 school year
But the Mustangs will face a tough task against the Vikings (25-4), who are going for their fourth consecutive 2A state title and fifth in the past six years.
“Our guys look at everything as a challenge,” Hodges said. “It’s a great team, a great program with some great players. We’re going to have to figure out a way to contain those guys.”
Knights shaking off euphoria: Ardrey Kell coach Michael Craft was still trying to shake off the euphoria of the Knights’ last-second victory over West Charlotte in the 4A Western Regional final.
But Craft knows that his players can’t dwell on that, not with Ardrey Kell (28-1) facing a 4A state championship matchup against Garner (27-1) on Saturday at the Smith Center.
“I can’t go anywhere without someone talking about it,” Craft said. “But we’ve got to make that go away this week. We have to understand that game’s in the past. We’ve got to focus on the next game, which is the biggest game of the year.”
Mustangs going for No. 2: Myers Park’s nationally ranked girls’ basketball team will go for its second straight 4A state title Saturday, taking on Southeast Raleigh (26-3) at the Smith Center.
But winning a state championship, much less do it in back-to-back years, has never been the Mustangs’ goal, according to coach Barbara Nelson.
“It’s not about repeating for us – we’ve never talked about that,” Nelson said. “I know nobody believes this, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to be the best we can be at everything we can do.
“But you can be at your best, and there can still be a team out there that’s better than you. Some years that means a state championship, some years that won’t.”
Long time coming for Green Wave: Gastonia Ashbrook coach Chad Duncan was only 4 years old when the Green Wave last played for a state championship.
Ashbrook (23-3) gets another chance Saturday, facing Fayetteville’s Terry Sanford (26-3) for the 3A title at Carmichael Arena.
The Green Wave’s last shot came in 1977, against crosstown rival Hunter Huss for the 4A state title. Ashbrook lost that game, 60-59, after beating the Huskies in four previous meetings that season.
“It was like the Gastonia championship, only it was played somewhere else,” Duncan said. “I’ve heard from a few old timers about that game. They played five times that year and won four out of five, but not the state title.”
Red Tornadoes get rematch: Last year, Hickory’s girls’ basketball team took an undefeated record into its 3A state title game against Chapel Hill – and lost.
The Red Tornadoes (26-0) are undefeated again and back in the 3A final, and get a rematch against the Tigers (24-2) on Saturday at Carmichael Arena.
“I told the girls before the regional final, ‘You don’t get to seek any revenge if you don’t get through this game,’” Hickory coach Barbara Helms said.
“I wanted them to have a real bitter taste in their mouths. I want them to have that same taste in their mouth Saturday.”