Ardrey Kell takes new approach into Myers Park rematch
Friday, Jan. 27 will mark 42 days since the Myers Park girls basketball team defeated the then-unbeaten Ardrey Kell Knights, 55-46, in a battle of the Southwestern 4A conference’s two best teams. And while the Knights haven’t exactly fixated on that December game, it’s safe to say that they were looking forward to this week’s rematch with the still-undefeated Mustangs.
“Obviously, Friday is huge for us,” Ardrey Kell coach Tina Lawrence said. “It’s something we’ve been preparing for since the last time we met. We’ve been trying to tweak our lineup a little bit and get some energy off the bench. And I think we’ve done that.
“In the last game (against Myers Park), three key turnovers is what it came down to. In the third quarter, we committed three turnovers in a row because of (the Mustangs’) aggressive trapping, and that led to three layups in a row for them. We’ve been working really hard on (negating) that in practice. We really feel like if we hit it, it’s going to be all right for us.”
If the Knights (16-3, 8-1) hope to earn a share of the league regular-season title, they need to beat Myers Park (19-0, 9-0). The Mustangs have games remaining against four struggling squads: Providence (4-14, 2-7), South Mecklenburg (3-16, 1-8), Independence (5-11, 4-4) and Rocky River (6-11, 2-6). Meanwhile, the Knights close out the regular season with Butler (9-9, 6-3), East Mecklenburg (5-12, 3-6), Rocky River and Providence.
In Friday’s meeting with Myers Park, Ardrey Kell’s starting lineup will look a little different from the first encounter: Freshman sensation Jordan Muhammad will come off the bench, while senior guard Katelyn White will start. Lawrence made the move two games ago because the team “needed a spark off the bench.”
It certainly isn’t because Muhammad has been playing poorly; she’s averaging 8.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.9 assists per game in her rookie season. But her ability to play three positions (point guard, shooting guard and small forward) will give the team’s substitution patterns more flexibility and provide the scoring punch Lawrence desires from the bench.
Meanwhile, senior guard Oceania Anderson (9.5 points and a team-high 3.8 assists per game) will handle the point-guard duties early on while perhaps being more aggressive offensively. And White, who averaged 11.4 points last season before dipping to 3.9 this year, can play myriad roles and add senior leadership.
The Knights debuted the new lineup last week during a 75-21 win over South Meck.
“We didn’t play our starters in the fourth quarter, and (Anderson) had 15 points, Katelyn played well (two points, four steals and four assists), and Jordan came off the bench and created a lot of opportunities while scoring 13 points (and adding six rebounds).
“We had a conversation about things, and Jordan has accepted the role without batting an eye. She’s a very mature freshman.”
Ultimately, however, Lawrence believes beating the Mustangs begins with avoiding the kind of play the Knights exhibited during that disastrous December third quarter. In that game, the halftime score was 23-23. But thanks, in large part, to the turnovers generated by Myers Park’s swarming, trapping defense, the Mustangs outscored the Knights by nine in the third period. In the fourth quarter, each team scored 13 points.
“We played them pretty even for three quarters,” Lawrence said. “We feel extremely confident we can play with them (Friday). We just have to protect the ball, limit turnovers and make our own layups.
“There’s a big difference between being aggressive and being cocky. I don’t think we were cocky the last time we played them, but maybe we were a little too confident because of our seniors. We definitely have to avoid being cocky – we still haven’t proven that we can win the big game yet.”
Myers Park girls still perfect
The Myers Park girls extended their winning streak to 19 games with their Jan. 24 win over East Mecklenburg, which followed a Jan. 20 victory against Butler. The 16-point win over Butler was Myers Park’s closest game in 2012, and Mustangs coach Dustin Terrel doesn’t mind.
“I think it is really good for us to come out and have to fight like that,” he said. “We have been playing well of late and getting big leads on teams, but playing through adversity will do us well.”
Terrel said Butler’s game plan, especially in the first half, got the Mustangs a little out of sync; they shot 11 3-pointers in the first half, and Terrel said he ideally wants his team to shoot about 10 for the game, especially with the inside presence of 6-foot sisters Roddreka and Rydeiah Rogers, who combine to average more than 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Mustang boys finding identity
After a, 83-76 win over Butler on Jan. 20, Myers Park boys coach Wes Hepler said his team has figured out how to play together and will be a factor in the Southwestern 4A conference.
The Mustangs have won eight of nine games and seem to have hit their stride.
“We are getting more confident every day and are starting to figure out what we have to do,” Hepler said.
The Mustangs are led by senior guard Patrick Wallace, who was terrific against Butler with 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Wallace led five Mustangs in double figures.
“We lost four in a row earlier in the year but have stepped it up since then,” Wallace said. “I think the difference is we have a lot more balance than we did earlier in the year and guys are better understanding their roles.
“We can win this conference. We just have to keep fighting and getting better. There are no off days for us the rest of the way, and if we are getting better, we have a great shot.”
Hepler said the biggest difference to the recent good fortune is simple.
“We have figured out who we are and have had to adjust to a new head coach and have only four returning varsity players from last year,” Hepler said. “We tried some things at the beginning of the year, and it has taken a while to find out exactly who we are. I think we’re getting there.”
Providence Day’s Fields out for season
On Jan. 19, doctors informed Providence Day boys star Bryon Fields that he suffered a broken wrist in October while leading the football team to a state title, and now his basketball season has ended.
The junior point guard was leading the team with 16.1 points, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
“He is an awesome kid, and (I) feel so bad for him,” Chargers coach Brian Field said. “He is crushed. He is the toughest kid I have ever coached.”