Tigers fall to Villians in state title game|Buckland leads Bishop to fifth straight title

Published 4:52 am Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sports Writer

CHAPEL HILL – This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end.
Williamston had streaked into the NCHSAA 1-A state championship game having won all 29 of its previous games this season on the strength of star Katie Paschal’s scoring and a havoc-wreaking press, but on Saturday Bishop McGuinness turned the table on the Tigers.
It was the Villains that applied the pressure with a smothering halfcourt trap on defense as they steadily accumulated points with a patient offense to capture their fifth straight state championship with a 55-46 victory at the Dean E. Smith Center.
“We had a great year and I’m very proud of all the girls. They played great all season,” Tigers first-year coach Hughes Barber said. “We just have to tip our hat to Bishop McGuinness. They played great.”
Bishop McGuinness (23-7) point guard Megan Buckland was a force on both ends of the court as she tallied 15 points, four rebounds and three steals despite missing the entire fourth quarter with an injury to win the Kay Yow MVP award. The honor was the second for Buckland, who was named last year’s title game MVP.
Buckland’s 6-foot frame and lengthy arms made it extremely tough for the Tigers’ ball-handlers as they routinely were pinned down at the top corners inside the halfcourt line.
McGuinness used that trap to hold the Tigers to four first-quarter points, while a balanced attack on offense allowed it to head into the second quarter with a 15-4 advantage.
In the midst of its balanced attack, Buckland sprinkled in a few three-pointers that had a back-breaking effect as she shot 6-9 from the floor and 3-6 from beyond the arc.
“We thought with (our girls’) long arms it would give them trouble and it did,” Bishop McGuinness coach Brian Robinson said.
Barber agreed with Robinson.
“They do a good job on defense. They are very long as team. They got very long arms and they got in the passing lanes,” Barber said. “In the first half we weren’t getting in the right spots and we were letting that bother us more than we did in the second half.
“In the first half we were struggling to get across halfcourt. We had 26 turnovers as a team and I would bet a majority of those (17) came in the first half.”
Paschal finished with a game-high 18 points, while adding eight rebounds and four steals, while sophomore point guard Zakkeya Morris racked up 13 points and four rebounds and was named the Tigers’ most valuable player. Senior forward Cassie Harrell also had a big game adding six points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Paschal, who became the state’s second all-time leading scorer during the East Regional tournament, finished her career with 3,150 points.
The Tigers (29-1) battled back from a 26-14 halftime deficit to go into the final stanza trailing only 40-31.
Defense got Williamston back in the game as guard Courtney Wynn harassed Buckland throughout the third quarter. Wynn embodied the Tigers’ fighting spirit as she became a one-girl wrecking crew on defense, hurling her body all over the court to force turnovers and jump balls.
Wynn’s reckless abandon was infectious, as Williamston’s other players followed her lead. Unfortunately, Wynn got hurt with 6:37 left in the fourth quarter, forcing her to miss a majority of the final period.
On the other side of the court, McGuinness was trying to figure out how to hold on to its fourth-quarter lead without its star point guard, Buckland, who got hurt with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
The young Villains, whose starting lineup consisted of one senior, a junior in Buckland, and two sophomores, temporarily buckled and allowed Williamston to get back in the game.
“I was telling them to just control their emotions,” Robinson said. “Some of them were breathing pretty hard over there and their eyes got a little wider … I was just trying to get them to calm down and understand that they prepared for this moment and the moment is here.”
A Morris three-point play cut the deficit to 42-40 with 5:06 play, but the Tigers could not make up the rest of the ground.
Williamston found itself down 45-42 after a Queenie Little basket with 3:10 showing on the clock, but McGuinness took momentum back on the ensuing possession.
McGuinness forward Erin Fitzgerald (11 points, seven rebounds) got fouled and proceeded to hit the first of her two free throw attempts. The Villains’ rebounded her miss as the ball found its way back to Fitzgerald, who converted a layup to extend their lead to 48-42.
Williamston 4 10 17 15 — 46
Bishop McGuinness 15 11 14 15 — 55
Tigers (46)
Zakkeya Morris 13, Harrell 6, Katie Paschal 18, Norfleet 5, Little 4.
Villains (55)
Petrangeli 5, Sammi Goldsmith 14, Liebal 4, Megan Buckland 15, Erin Fitzgerald 11, Coon 6.