State title within reach for Titans’ girls’ basketball team

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2019

By Marc Pruitt
For the Clemmons Courier

One more game and one more win is all that stands between the West Forsyth girls basketball team and the NCHSAA 4-A state championship.

West (26-3) dismantled David W. Butler 57-39 last Saturday to capture the Western Regional championship at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory to set up a showdown for state supremacy.

The Titans’ date with destiny is Saturday at historic Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of N.C. State with the tipoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m. against Southeast Raleigh (25-5), which lost in last year’s state championship game to Northwest Guilford.

Reynolds Coliseum also holds plenty of history for West Forsyth Coach Brittany Cox. During her playing days at Bishop McGuinness from 2005-2009, she won two of her four straight NCHSAA 1-A state titles at Reynolds Coliseum, which gives Cox a unique perspective on getting her team prepared for the big game.

“I remember that Coach (Brian) Robinson treated it like is was any other game and that had a real calming effect on us,” Cox said. “He gave us time to go out into the arena at Reynolds and at the Smith Center (in Chapel Hill, site of Cox’s other two state titles as a player) and take it all in. But he would always tell us that when we got back to the locker room, that’s when we really needed to get focused on the task at hand. I’ll probably take a similar approach. I also want them to enjoy every moment of the experience and have fun. Take it all in and remember what got us here and why we are here. With this group, I know there won’t be any trouble in motivating them. They are focused and don’t want this season to end, especially our seniors. They’ve really been lights out for us in the postseason because I think they realize this is their last ride together.”

Two of those seniors came up huge for the Titans in last Saturday’s regional win. Callie Scheier finished with 23 points despite having a box-and-one defense played on her in the early going. Destiny Griffin scored 16 points and hauled in nine rebounds and made 4 of 8 3-point attempts, including three in the first quarter as West jumped out to a 20-11 lead.

“We kind of knew they might try to play a box-in-one on Callie early and we were ready for that,” Cox said. “We worked on a few plays against that set in practice all week and Catherine Byun took over as our primary ball-handler. Destiny really made some big shots and I think that just gave everyone a huge confidence boost.”

The Titans pulled away in the second quarter after shutting the Bulldogs out, scoring 11 straight points and taking a 31-11 lead at halftime.

“As good as we can be on offense, our defense really did a great job against them,” Cox said. “We kept them scoreless in the second quarter and that was just huge. In the second half, it was more of us maintaining what we had been doing and not letting them get back into it. And I thought we did a great job of that.”

West led 42-27 heading into the fourth quarter and Butler never threatened. The Titans are headed to their first state championship game appearance since 2014 when they lost to Raleigh Millbrook.

“One thing that I know we all appreciated was that it felt like we had a home court advantage in Hickory,” Cox said. “We had tremendous support from our students, our parents, our teachers and administration. I know a lot of those kids had to take the SAT that day, and a lot of the teachers who made the trip had to give the SAT. It’s things like that you really appreciate. The support the entire community has shown this team has been terrific. And we’ll need it again this Saturday since we’ll be basically playing in Southeast Raleigh’s backyard.”

Cox said she took some time to soak up the regional win but admitted she started to think about gathering film and preparing a game plan for the state title game as well. After giving the team Monday off to rest, the Titans will have four full days of preparation.

“Wins like we had should be celebrated, so we all went to Cook Out after the game and got milkshakes,” Cox said. “It kind of carries on the tradition I started this season. I brought them breakfast one morning before school after a big win. When we won the conference championship, they showed up for practice after school and they couldn’t find their practice uniforms. And I surprised them by telling them we were going to dinner instead. These girls love the game and they love being together and playing for each other. And that’s been the most important thing. We didn’t know quite what to expect coming into this season because we lost some really good players last year. But this group has remained focused and resilient and we’ve taken a couple of big steps to get to this point. We’ve got one more to take and we are looking forward to it.”