Photo and article by Laieke Abebe
In one of the biggest girls basketball games in the area this season, Wayne Country Day was able to respond at the right time.
Trailing by as many as seven points in the second half, the Chargers came back and held off a late Wayne Christian run to prevail 52-49 on Tuesday. The Chargers completed the regular-season sweep and regained sole possession of first place in the Coastal Plains Independent 2A conference.
“This is our biggest win of the season,” Wayne Country Day head coach Maurice Jones said. “They’re an excellent team that plays the right way, so we had to execute in the second half. Our shot selection improved and we were able to run our offense the right way when it mattered.”
Both teams traded blows in the early going with the Chargers (16-6, 3-1) using an 8-0 run to lead after the first quarter. Led by the Fox sisters, Caroline and Ella, the Eagles would battle back with a 7-0 run to take a 23-20 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Wayne Christian (10-2, 3-2) turned up the pressure on defense to lead by seven in the final minute of the period. However, Wayne Country Day closed the quarter well and made it a two-possession game going to the fourth quarter.
Thanks to the play of eighth-grader Jada Vanderhorst, the Chargers would take control and lead by nine with under four minutes left. Junior Ja’Kea Brunson hit a couple of crucial buckets despite struggling from the floor for most of the night.
“Jada is young, but she plays like she’s an upperclassman,” coach Jones added. “She’s been a great addition to the team this year and we expect her to play at a high level every night.”
During the final minutes, Wayne Christian put together one more rally. After a couple of turnovers, a pair of jumpers from Brianna Verme and Ella Fox, the Eagles cut the deficit to five with 1:30 left.
An offensive foul gave the Eagles the ball back and a technical foul led to free throws. Caroline Fox would split the pair to make it a four-point game.
On the ensuing possession, Hayli Verme converted a layup to make it 51-49 after Kyrah Davis split her pair of foul shots. After nearly turning the ball over again, Kimora Cox was fouled with nine seconds left.
She made the first free throw and missed the second allowing for Wayne Christian to have a shot at overtime. In the end, a three-pointer from Brittany Butts was too long and time ran out.
Brunson had 15 for the Chargers, Vanderhorst scored 13, and Trinity Smith finished with nine. Ella Fox had 16 to lead the Eagles while Caroline Fox added 11, Butts had nine, and Hayli Verme chipped in with eight.
“We have three important games left against really good teams. Greenfield always gives us a good game and John Paul II beat us the first time, but it starts with Liberty Christian on Friday, Jones said. “It comes down to taking care of business and staying focused. Our girls are right where we want to be right now”.
Wayne Country Day travels to Liberty Christian Friday while Wayne Christian hosts the Heat Thursday.