DAVIDSON – Facing O’Neal School for the third time this season, the Davidson Day girls basketball team didn’t let the NCISAA 2A title game be the charm for its opponent.
The Patriots again defeated the Falcons of Southern Pines Saturday, Feb. 22, this time 62-45, for the first basketball state championship – boys or girls – in school history. They finished the year 21-4 as an independent team.
Coach Jeff Lafave said that despite the wins over O’Neal Dec. 29 and Jan. 11, he didn’t want his team thinking about those games.
“I just try to make each game a separate deal,” Lafave said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times, but they knew it was going to be a battle. Knowing you’re going to be in a competitive game, it helps you prepare more.”
The game was tied at halftime, but the Patriots clamped down on defense and outscored O’Neal 21-5 in the third quarter.
“When we got that lead, that’s when you felt the kids exhale and just play,” Lafave said. “We got some easy baskets in the third. And that set us up in the fourth quarter.”
Sophomore Mallory Haines led Davidson Day with 23 points, as junior Nevaeh Brown scored 19. Both are Division I commits – Haines to Davidson College and Brown to Wake Forest.
The Patriots, with their small-in-numbers roster, still like to push the tempo, but weren’t able to get the kind of shots they’re accustomed to until they started to grab defensive rebounds to start fast breaks.
“We watched film on how well they rebounded the ball on the offensive end,” Lafave said. “We knew one of the keys to the game was rebounding. A team can score and set pressure on you. When you get some stops you can do what you want to do. It ended up being in our favor, to get defensive stops and turn it into opportunity.”
Davidson Day defeated most in-state schools easily, with their only loss to a nearby school coming at the hands of I-Meck 4A champion Vance. But a trip to New York City over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend gave the girls a chance to take on some of the best teams in the country. That’s where the Patriots fell to Regis Jesuit of Colorado and New Jersey school Life Center Academy.
“Our schedule was a lot more difficult than in the past,” Lafave said. “When you win games by a lot points, you really don’t know who you are as a team. Getting the kids out there, that’s where we learned who we were. Not too many teams can say they played two (nationally) ranked teams in the same season. We wanted to be seasoned and put through some tests.”
Despite the loss to Regis, there was optimism among the team that they didn’t let future Stanford player Fran Belibi dunk, for which she became an internet sensation earlier in the season. It’s games like that that force the team to be at its best, Lafave said.
The state title, which was Davidson Day’s third appearance in four years, was the final game for seniors Josie Wiles, who will play at Barry University, as well as Kate Roberts and Libby Otto.