About three weeks after the Providence Day girls’ basketball team beat Rabun Gap 36-29 in the 2015 N.C. Independent Schools state championship, Izzy Gallant was putting shots up in the Chargers’ gym when she saw coach Josh Springer out of the corrner of her eye.
“I had a conversation with Springer right then and there,” said Gallant, a Providence Day senior guard. “I said, ‘I’m not losing in my last championship. I’m not. I can’t do it.’ I had just won my third straight and to win three, and to know what the feeling is like, you can’t get that anywhere else. To get one this year would be like icing on the cake.”
Gallant and her teammates took the first step on their journey Thursday at Raleigh Ravenscroft School, beating Greensboro Day 53-16 in a quarterfinal. The Chargers (25-2), ranked No. 2 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll, will play either Rabun Gap (17-7) or Charlotte Latin (18-8) in Friday’s 4 p.m. semifinal.
Gallant, a first-year starter, is going for her fifth state title at Providence Day. She’s won three in basketball and one in tennis, four years ago. Senior teammate Celine Ives, a three-year starter, has won three basketball state championships, plus two in girls soccer (2013-14). Ives is also an all-state field hockey player.
They are part of a Chargers’ team that has been nationally ranked this season and is a heavy favorite to win its seventh straight basketball title. Providence Day has won 10 of the past 11 state titles and 15 total since 1982.
Thursday, the Chargers led 41-10 at halftime, thanks to a stifling defensive performance. Junior center Janelle Bailey had a team-high 17 points and senior Vanderbilt signee Erin Whalen had 12. And ultimately, Gallant -- and her teammates -- are a step closer to their state championship goal.
“We really stay together,” she said. “And we stay on each other. Springer is always like, ‘Stay focused. Stay focused.’ It’s a team thing. If one player loses focus, the others are like, ‘Hey, get it together.’ We always talk about how any team can be beaten on any given day. And we don’t want to be that team. Ever.”
No. 1 Providence Day boys 69, Charlotte Latin 51: Last season, the Chargers advanced to the semifiinals for the first time since 2001. Thursday, Providence Day (28-3), ranked as high as No. 9 in the nation, set a school record for wins and earned a second straight semifinal berth. The Chargers started slowly against a determined Latin team (15-12). In the first quarter, Providence Day shot 4-for-13 and committed six turnovers.
But with North Carolina coach Roy Williams watching courtside, the Chargers picked things up in the second half.
Sophomore guard Trey Wertz scored all 13 of his points in the second half and added seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Sophomore point guard Devon Dotson, who has been offered scholarships from North Carolina, N.C. State and Florida in recent weeks, had 19 points, five assists and three rebounds. Tennessee signee Grant Williams, the reigning Observer Player of the Year, had 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots. Senior Isaac Johnson had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Charlotte Latin got 20 points from senior forward Parker Julian, 11 from Bates Jones and 10 from Caleb Jordan.
Northside Christian 53, Gaston Day 51: Sophomore forward Nate Hinton got a steal and score with three seconds left to lead the Knights to their fourth win over Gaston Day this season and a berth in Friday’s 2A semifinals. Hinton finished with eight points. Senior Colton Cashaw had for the Knights and junior Chris Martin had 11. Quan McCluney and Brandon Reeves had 14 each for Gaston Day.
No. 3 Davidson Day girls 59, Caldwell Academy 11: Maya Caldwell had 17 points, six steals and five assists to lead the Patriots (25-2) to the semifinals. Parker Tompkins had 19 points and Courtney Meadows had 10 points, six steals and four assists.