Last year’s loss to Chapel Hill in the state championship game left a bitter taste with Hickory’s girls basketball team.
But the Red Tornadoes left Carmichael Arena on Saturday with a measure of revenge, winning a 71-53 victory over the Tigers for the N.C. 3A state title.
Danasia Witherspoon scored 20 points and was named the championship game’s most valuable player for Hickory (27-0), which won its third state title and its first since posting back-to-back wins in 1998-1999.
“I wanted them to feel the bitterness they had at the end of the game last year,” Red Tornadoes coach Barbara Helms said.
“That’s something you can build on. It may sound negative, but if you have a bad enough taste for it (losing), it’s something you won’t let happen again.”
Yazman Hannah added 19 points and Ansley Rooks 12 for Hickory, which also got 20 rebounds from Sadasia Tipps – a record for a 3A state title game, and tying for fourth-most in all classifications.
However, the Red Tornadoes had to overcome turnover problems against Chapel Hill (24-3).
Behind 10 turnovers by Hickory, the Tigers led 19-15 at the end of the first quarter, and were ahead 23-18 when Helms called timeout with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second period.
“We were trading turnover for turnover,” Helms said. “When we were getting the ball, we weren’t capitalizing on them. We weren’t scoring off them.”
While the two teams finished with 21 turnovers each, the Red Tornadoes finished with a 33-17 advantage in points off turnovers.
That, and a 44-30 rebounding edge, allowed Hickory to close out the first half with an 18-8 run and a 36-31 halftime lead. The Red Tornadoes would extend their lead to 55-43 by the end of the third quarter, and Chapel Hill would pull no closer than nine points the rest of the game.
Raziyah Farrington had 19 points and Autumn West added 10 for the Tigers.