Myers Park’s nationally ranked girls basketball team made history Saturday night in the Dean Smith Center.
The Mustangs, No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, beat Southeast Raleigh for the second straight year in the N.C. 4A state championship game. But Saturday’s 52-47 win was much tougher than last year’s 61-46 win in Raleigh.
For the first time in the 2015 playoffs, Myers Park looked a little mortal, but when the Mustangs needed it most, championship MVP D.D. Rogers delivered. She scored 13 of her team-high 15 points in the second half, after picking up three fouls in the first half. She also had seven rebounds and two steals. Rogers was named championship game MVP for the second straight season.
Myers Park, ranked No. 4 in USA Today’s national poll, became the first Mecklenburg County 4A girls team to repeat as state champion. West Charlotte reached the 2008 and 2009 final. The Lions won in 2009 behind N.C. state player of the year Christal Caldwell.
“I don’t know if this one is more special than last year,” Mustangs senior Morgan Uptegraff said. “Each one is different for us. Last year was our first one, and this year, we had a new team with seven new players. I think it was harder because we had a lot of new girls who had never been in a situation like this.”
Myers Park jumped out to an early 14-2 lead and looked like it might run away with the championship like it had done in the N.C. 4A Western Regionals, where it whipped previously unbeaten Winston-Salem Reynolds and previously unbeaten and nationally ranked Northwest Guilford.
But Rogers got in foul trouble and had to sit out most of the first half and for the start of the second. Southeast Raleigh (26-4) cut the lead to three in the third quarter. Rogers scored six straight points to push it back.
Myers Park was up 13 in the fourth quarter before Southeast Raleigh made its final push, closing to 43-39 with 2:14 left. Rogers scored two quick buckets to give her team enough breathing room to finish.
“I was getting frustrated with not playing and not being able to do anything about it,” Rogers said. “Having three fouls before halftime was hard. I just wanted to have an impact on the game.”
Rogers and All-American teammate Aliyah Mazyck (12 points, 6 rebounds) lost only four games in their Myers Park careers. They helped coach Barbara Nelson get two rings.
“I didn’t let myself enjoy the first one,” said Nelson, who has won nine state titles at Myers Park and Providence Day, “because I knew we’d have a chance to get a second one. This one? I don’t know if we’ll get back here, so I’m going to enjoy this.”