CHARLOTTE – The Providence Day girls basketball team ended its long stretch of 20 or more wins in a season with its loss to eventual champion North Raleigh Christian in the Final Four of the NCISAA championships on Feb. 22 in Raleigh.
The loss left the Chargers at 19-12 on the season, but there is certainly a lot to be proud of.
First, the Chargers advanced to the semifinals for the 18th consecutive season, with 12 state titles mixed in.
They did it this season without a senior on the roster and with three rotation players watching from the bench in street clothes as the Chargers ended their season with a 55-42 defeat.
“It is extremely disappointing for the kids anytime your season ends with anything but a victory,” said coach Josh Springer. “That’s always our goal for the kids. We’ve been fortunate to be healthy for so long, but we had three season-ending injuries this year. This season made me look at how fortunate we were because we may have been the most healthy high school basketball team in America. I know there’s some things you can control and some you can’t, but overall, I’m really proud of our progress this year.”
The Chargers went 16-6 down the stretch after losing to Butler on Dec. 8, with three of those losses coming to out-of-state teams.
In the championship game, all-state selection Morgan Kelson carried the Chargers early as she scored the team’s first 11 points of the game.
With nobody else producing, North Raleigh turned a 9-6 Charger lead into a 22-12 deficit following a 16-2 run.
But the Chargers didn’t go away.
Midway through the third quarter, the Chargers sent Kelson to the line for two shots trailing just 31-25 after a 9-2 run of their own.
Kelson, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds, missed both free throws, and instead of cutting the lead to four points, the Knights would go on a 14-0 run that broke the Chargers back as they wouldn’t get closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
North Raleigh was led by 6-foot-3 freshman center Imani Lester who 18 points and dominated on the glass. Junior Christa Dutton hit three 3-pointers and added 17 for the eventual champs.
“We ran into a really good North Raleigh team, and they really hurt us inside and on the glass. And, obviously, the Lester kid is really talented,” Springer said. “We really competed and got some easy buckets in transition early, but against a team like that, we really needed to put four solid quarters together. Unfortunately, we got on the glass a little bit.”
Andi Levitz added 15 points, four assists and three rebounds for the Chargers while Grace Godwin added eight points and six rebounds.
But Springer said he won’t harp on the loss with all of the positives happening program-wide.
In addition to the varsity team adding another Final Four trip to extend its long streak, the Chargers JV team went unbeaten, the eighth-grade team finished second at the NBA Jr. Nationals, which was 45 middle school teams public and private from the city of Charlotte.
In addition, with no seniors everyone is back including Anna Riley Guituerez, Nina Simone-Clark and Scarlett Grier who will have returned from their injuries that sidelined them down the stretch or, in Simone-Clark’s case, out for the season.
“Our future is extremely, extremely bright,” Springer said. “We had no seniors on the team, we return everyone and we return two all-state players in Morgan Kelson and Andi Levitz. We return two more all-conference kids in Kalie Smith and MiLea Owens and we’ll get our other kids back healthy.
“Again, I’m disappointed about the loss, but I’m really excited about our program and the offseason starts now.”