The wait is finally over for the Northwest girls’ basketball team, as the Vikings are headed to the first NCHSAA state championship in program history this weekend in Chapel Hill.
Northwest (30-0), which has won 58 of 59 games dating back to last year, will put its undefeated season on the line against No. 2 Raleigh Millbrook (29-2) in the 4-A state championship game on Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center.
The top-seeded Vikings have won their first five playoff games by an average of 24.2 points with a roster that includes five seniors who are now four-year varsity veterans, including point guard Hayley Barber and forward Morgan Pointer, who have both scored more than 1,000 career points.
Northwest athletic director John Hughes said the biggest joy for him has been the ability to watch this particular group of seniors, who he called “arguably the best class we have ever had in girls’ basketball —,” mature as the wins continued to rack up.
In 2013, when Barber, Pointer, and the rest of the current senior class were freshmen, Northwest won just 15 games and was eliminated in the first round of the 4-A state playoffs.
“When these seniors were freshman, we took our lumps a little bit and it was kind of a rebuilding situation,” Hughes said. “But now, to have watched these girls grow up and grow together — we’re really blessed to have a lot of talent, and we have intelligent kids that are athletic, which is a very good combination.”
In the 2-A girls’ bracket, East Davidson (30-1) is making just its second appearance in the state championship game; a full eight years after the 2008 squad secured the only NCHSAA girls’ basketball title in school history.
Principal Scott Dalton, who began working at East Davidson prior to the 2014 school year, said he has noticed the school and Thomasville community rally around the girls’ basketball team throughout its quest for a state championship in 2016.
As the top-seeded team in the 2-A West bracket, East Davidson won its first four playoff games at home, before defeating R-S Central, 49-43, in the state semifinals last Saturday at UNC-Greensboro’s Fleming Gymnasium.
Now, the Golden Eagles will travel to Chapel Hill to play No. 3 North Pitt (29-1) on Saturday at 12 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center.
“There is something special about the small town team or the local team,” Dalton said. “I know that Davidson County fans are very passionate and East Davidson fans, in particular, are very proud of anything associated with our school, regardless of what it is, and this girls’ basketball team is no different.
“Every playoff game we have had tremendous crowds, tremendous support and we filled up our whole side of the gym at UNCG on Saturday, so I know we are going to travel well to Chapel Hill.”
While Dalton said he was extremely thrilled with East Davidson’s on-court accomplishments, such as winning 29 of its 30 games by at least 10 points, he admitted that the character of the 12 girls on the state championship bound team is what makes him most satisfied.
“They are the epitome of what it means to be a student-athlete,” Dalton said. “They make good grades, they make good decisions and when they are wearing East Davidson on their jersey, it makes your proud that they are representing you.”