CHAPEL HILL — For the first time since 1972, the North Pitt girls’ basketball program is taking a NCHSAA state title back to Bethel, as the Panthers defeated East Davidson 68-65 Saturday afternoon in the 2-A state championship game at the Dean Smith Center.
North Pitt (30-1) overcame a 13-point halftime deficit and outscored the Golden Eagles by nine points in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers were led by senior Dorian Sharpe, who scored a game-high 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting and grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Nyjanique Langley was also vital in the come-from-behind victory, scoring 16 of her 20 points and bringing down nine of her 10 rebounds in the second half.
Sharpe was named Most Outstanding Player from the 2-A East bracket for her efforts throughout the tournament, while Langley was named state championship game MVP thanks to her performance against East Davidson.
“This is just phenomenal,” coach Yolanda Bowden of North Pitt said. “This is like a dream — it is so surreal. The girls did an awesome job.”
But before the celebration of snapping a 44-year state-championship drought began, the Panthers headed to the locker room at halftime trailing 36-23 and seemed to be teetering on the edge of defeat.
After a slow start that saw East Davidson (30-2) shooting just 17.6 percent in the first quarter, the Golden Eagles went on a 25-10 run over the final 6:09 of the first half, which included six 3-pointers.
“I think y’all just saw a great basketball game,” coach Don Corry of East Davidson said. “Both teams played extremely hard. We were fortunate in the first half that the ball bounced our way and we were making baskets.
“In the second half, it seemed like it bounced their way a little bit and we just fell short.” Corry said. “Give them congratulations. They did what they needed to do.”
After shooting just 8 of 31 from the field in the first half, North Pitt shot 50 percent (16 of 32) in the final two quarters and made three of its final four 3-point attempts.
The Panthers opened the fourth quarter on a 13-3 run to take a 57-53 lead with 3:33 remaining in the game and then held steady over the next two-plus minutes, leading 63-59 with less than a minute left.
But in a span of seven seconds the Panthers’ four-point lead was gone, as East Davidson senior Madi Hallman first made a layup with 43 seconds left, before converting two free throws with 36.1 seconds after forcing a North Pitt turnover at midcourt.
The Golden Eagles were led by Hallman, who scored 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. The 5-foot-6 point guard was also named the Most Outstanding Player from the 2-A West regional.
After East Davidson pulled back to within one point, 66-65, behind a layup from senior Bayley Plummer with 14.1 seconds left, the Golden Eagles intentionally fouled North Pitt senior TyQushia Gainer, who missed both free throws.
Gainer, however, immediately made up for her shortcomings at the line, as she stole the ball from Hallman with fewer than 10 seconds remaining and made a layup with 6.2 seconds left to secure the championship-winning victory.