PITTSBORO — “We got beat by a good team,” a stunned West Carteret Head Coach Lindsey Howell said in what might qualify as the understatement of the NCHSAA 3A women’s basketball playoffs.
Northwood left the Patriots dazed and confused in a 67-14 Sweet 16 blitzkrieg last Saturday.
No. 2 seed Northwood put a pasting of the No. 7 West Carteret women from start to finish, setting the tone early and often with an unbelievable 35-0 run.
The Chargers will face the No. 14 Williams Bulldogs of Burlington on Tuesday in the East region semifinal game.
“We never expected the score to be that lopsided. We usually play a lot tougher than that,” said Howell, whose team started 6-6 but was on a 15-game win streak. “They were a lot quicker than the teams we usually play and … our defense wasn’t shifting quickly enough, and so some of the tactics that we usually bring to the game just wasn’t there.”
“We’re playing really hard. The intensity was there on defense throughout, which I’m really proud of,” said Northwood Head Coach Kerri Snipes. “Even though we were switching back and forth between different defenses, they kept that energy and that aggression.”
The Chargers’ superior speed was evident and potent. They intercepted passes, stole balls in mid-dribble and yanked down rebounds. They beat their opponents to loose balls, ran a fast break scheme that wobbled the Patriots and implemented an overpowering press.
Northwood entered the game giving up a meager 29.5 points per game on average, then held West Carteret to less than half of that.
Three Chargers scored as many or more points than the entire Patriots team, which was held scoreless in two quarters.
Olivia Porter led all scorers with 18. Natalie Bell and Te’Keyah Bland pumped in 14 each. The entire Northwood roster got onto the floor during the game, and even the subs contained the West Carteret offense.
“We took care of the ball a lot better than we have recently,” Snipes said. “They were looking up the floor for each other. Even in the half-court we were swinging the ball and moving it, trying to get those great shots off, which I thought we did a really good job of tonight.”
So how does Snipes keep her players from getting overconfident after a shellacking like that?
“We’re just trying to be more disciplined and have some composure to us because we know there’s some tough teams that are left that we are going to be facing,” Snipes said. “So we’re just trying to prepare for them as much as we could.
“They’re not always guaranteed to get to play. I think they’re beginning to understand that, that you’ve got to fight it out,” he continued. “So we kind of came out with that aggression from the tip tonight.”
Senior guard Natalie Bell was reveling in the moment, but sober in her assessment of the blowout.
“I was shocked because I thought it was going to be a back-to-back game. I thought the third round was going to be really, really hard,” Bell said. “We’re not selfish with the ball. We share the ball, and I thought we did good both defensively and offensively.”
That, she said, is the fruit of hard practice, watching the scouting films and sticking with the game plan coaches devise.
“It feels good to be in the Elite Eight,” Bell said. “I knew we were going to get this far because we’re a really good team offensively and defensively. So to be a senior and to be in the Elite Eight is really good. I would like to be in the state championship.”
Bell, who has been talking to some colleges about continuing her basketball career, struggled more seeking an adjective to describe the team’s mood than she did running plays and tossing in baskets on the court.
Happy, excited, humble — those sum it up, she said.
The Chargers had to be happy with their astonishing bombardment to start.
Porter opened the game with a 3-pointer, and Bell closed the first quarter with a 3-pointer of her own to cap a 33-0 onslaught.
Bland scored 12 of her points in the quarter, 9 of them on a run all her own, featuring layups and a turnaround jumper.
Porter tallied 11 of her total in the first eight minutes, grabbing a rebound and sinking a basket, driving for a score, stealing the ball and taking it to the rim and dishing it off for others to score.
West Carteret found the second period to be just as bleak. Bell opened the quarter with a steal inside the paint on the Patriots’ side of the court and took it all the way back to push the lead to 35-0.
The Patriots’ Kasey McCoury followed with a 3-pointer, ending a scoring drought that stretched over nine and a half agonizing minutes. But it would be another 4:10 before they scored again.
In between, the Chargers kept up the swarming defense and offensive barrage, extending the lead to 53-5.
The Chargers seized a 56-point lead, their largest of the game, at 4:41 of the third quarter. Porter opened the frame with a steal and basket, and followed with a 3-pointer. Bland hit a layup on a fast break pass and the scoreboard read 61-5.
Snipes began liberally substituting players and the scoring curtailed, especially in the fourth quarter as the clock ran continuously under the mercy rule.
The Chargers host the 14th-seeded Williams Bulldogs in the Elite Eight of the 3A women’s bracket on Tuesday at 6 p.m., after the News + Record’s press deadline.
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