The long wait is over for the Parkland girls basketball team.
The top-seeded Mustangs won their first Mary Garber Holiday Tip-Off Classic title in the 31-year history of the tournament Wednesday night by racing past No. 6 Winston-Salem Prep 66-51 in the Champion Bracket final at Atkins.
“We had some adversity there a couple of times, but they fought through it,” said second-year Coach Ken Leak of Parkland.
“And that’s what’s made me proud of this team. Their understanding of how to fight through adversity — we’re young — two seniors and the rest of them are freshmen, sophomores and juniors. But they’re meshing, they trust each other, and I guess they’re believing.
“So I can’t do anything but say thank God, it’s something that Parkland has been wanting. They’ve never had it and I’m just glad the students and the administration and the Parkland community could share in this.”
Senior guard Tatiyana Cannon, a transfer from Reynolds before the season, was named the tournament MVP after scoring 19 points to lead the Mustangs.
“Coach was telling us, this is our first time winning the Mary Garber, so we’re going to come out and make history,” Cannon said. “So we made history tonight.”
Parkland (3-0) finished 11-13 last season, so the Mustangs have made steady improvement since Leak started coaching.
“It’s amazing, man. It really is,” Leak said. “Like I said earlier in the week, the girls put in some work. They’ve been working the whole preseason — conditioning. And they’ve listened. They’ve listened and they’re a team. They play together. They hustle together.”
As for Winston-Salem Prep, it came up short in trying to win its first Garber title since winning the Pepsi Bracket in 2015.
“We’re turning the corner,” said first-year Coach Bill Tibbs of the Phoenix, which finished 3-20 last season under Coach Calvin Davis. “Our players are older now.... We’ll be OK.”
It looked like the outcome would be reversed early in the game after the Phoenix (3-2) took a 13-8 lead after the first quarter. But the Mustangs clamped down on defense to trim the lead to 30-29 at halftime.
“It was the nerves,” Leak said. “I take my hat off to Winston-Salem Prep. Their coaches came up with a good strategy of putting some pressure on us because it’s usually us putting pressure on folks. The girls had a hard time slowing down.”
Parkland responded in the third quarter and took the lead 31-30 after Jayla Massey hit a jumper with 7:05 left in the first quarter. Tatyana Childress of Winston-Salem Prep answered with a jumper to regain the lead at 32-31 with 6:19 left in the third quarter. Taleeya Reed helped give Parkland the lead for good on a layup with 5:30 left to take a 33-32 lead.
“Coach took us in the locker room and said the score was 0-0, so we came back out and brought back the win,” Cannon said.
Parkland extended the lead to 45-39 at the end of the third quarter after it went to a zone defense.
“The third quarter is usually our quarter. We’re averaging about 24 points in the third quarter,” Leak said. “That third quarter, I guess they hit a switch, and I mean they came on and we chipped away. I went to a zone. I said if these girls are going to keep hitting 3s I don’t want to see it.”
The Mustangs pulled away in the fourth quarter and outscored the Phoenix 21-12.
Childress led the Phoenix with 25 points and Tre’zha Muhammad scored 14. Both players made All-Tournament.
“We were up, rolling good, and they turned the pressure up and we turned the ball over,” Tibbs said. “I told ‘em what was going to happen. They were going to turn it up, helter-skelter because we play similar, and just not panic. But we kind of panicked a little bit. But it’s going to help us for later on the year.”
Freshman Danajsa Horne added 16 points for the Mustangs, and Jayla Massey scored 11. Cannon, Horne and Kyla McCoy of Parkland, who compete in the Piedmont Triad 3-A, all made All-Tournament.
“We’re here,” Leak said. “There’s the Dudleys, the Mount Tabors, the Southwest Guilfords and the others, and we’re here. We’re going to compete from the beginning to the end.”
In the third-place game, Anabel Merriam led Atkins with 14 points as it defeated Walkertown 46-41.
Layla Tillery added 12 points for the Camels (2-1), and Camarra Monae scored 10.
Khaliyah McCummings led the Wolfpack (1-2) with 23 points and Jordan Butterfield scored 12.
PARKLAND 66, W-S PREP 51
W-S Prep 13 17 9 12 − 51 Parkland 8 21 16 21 − 66
W-S Prep (3-2): Dajaneen Ortiz 6, Watson 3, Tre’zha Muhammad 14, Robinson 3, Tatyana Childress 25
Parkland (3-0): Tatiyana Cannon 19, Danasja Horne 16, Jayla Massey 11, McCoy 8, Smith 2, Andrews 2, Reed 8
ATKINS 46, WALKERTOWN 41
Walkertown 9 17 9 6 − 41 Atkins 6 13 14 13 − 46
Walkertown (1-2): Khaliyah McCummings 23, Jordan Butterfield 13, Binns 4, Bray 1, Sales
Atkins (2-1): Anabel Merriam 14, Layla Tillery 12, Camarra Monae 10, Clarida 8, Sanders 2