CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Northern Guilford returned to the 3A State Championship game for the second year in a row and held on to beat Hickory Ridge 66-64, reversing the heartbreak of one year ago and claiming the school’s first Women’s Basketball State Championship.
Northern Guilford trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half as Hickory Ridge came out on fire, shooting better than 50% from the floor in the first half. The Lady Bulls led by eight at the intermission.
Northern Guilford regrouped at the half and got an incredible performance from Elissa Cunane who scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to complete her double-double. Cunane was named the Kay Yow Most Valuable Player of the Game. She was one block shy of a triple-double with nine when she fouled out of the game with 1:30 to go and the Nighthawks up 63-54.
With Cunane out of the game, Deja Neal went to work for the Lady Bulls, scoring six in a 7-0 Hickory Ridge run to cut the Northern advantage to just two with 24 seconds remaining. Northern Guilford got a run-out lay in from Kassie Robakewicz to extend the lead back to four before Neal would trim the lead back to two with a pair of free throws with nine seconds to play at 65-63.
Northern Guilford’s Kelly Lomax converted one of her two free throws with eight seconds to play and when Hickory Ridge’s Nia Daniel was fouled with two seconds to play, she hit the first free throw to trim the Nighthawk lead to two at 66-64. Daniel intentionally missed the second free throw and the Lady Bulls grabbed the rebound but Sydney Miller could not get a shot off as she was stripped by Northern Guilford’s Janelle Henderson to seal the victory and hand the Lady Bulls their first loss of the season.
Robakewicz finished in double figures with 14 points and four rebounds to go with a pair of assists. Mercedes Wampler was also in double figures with 10 points, a pair of assists and two steals. Wampler was named Northern Guilford’s Most Outstanding Performer.
Hickory Ridge had three players in double figures with Gabby Smith leading the way with her 15 points, three rebounds and four steals. Daniel added 13 with nine rebounds and Jiera Shears chipped in 12 points with three steals and a pair of assists.
The Lady Bulls finished the season 31-1, champions of the Southern Piedmont 3A where they went 18-0 in conference. They won the Western Regional for the first time in history and made their first state championship game appearance.
Northern Guilford finished the season 31-1, champions of the Mid-State 3A Conference where they were 16-0. The Nighthawks won the Eastern Regional for the second straight year and claimed their first State Championship in Women’s Basketball.