Photo and article from Laieke Abebe
The Wayne Country Day girls basketball team played in its fifth consecutive state semifinals on Tuesday.
However, the Chargers have not been able to get over the hump and reach the state title game.
Despite another fantastic season, the Chargers fell, 56-43 to The O’Neal School in the NCISAA 2A final four. It’s the second time in three years that the Falcons have eliminated WCDS from the state playoffs.
“We got beat up on the boards,” Wayne Country Day head coach Maurice Jones said. “Most of the time, we’re the team that has the rebounding advantage, but tonight, their forwards controlled the glass. They deserve a lot of credit because they were well prepared and stuck to their game plan.”
Ja’Kea Brunson, Kyrah Davis, and Kimora Cox all scored baskets in the opening quarter. However, the Chargers (23-7) went 1-6 from the free-throw line in the first eight minutes.
Meanwhile, WCDS had difficulty dealing with O’Neal freshman guard Ashanti Fox. She scored 11 of her team’s 17 in the first quarter, and she was only heating up.
The Chargers trailed by nine going into the second but cut it to five after a couple of Brunson buckets. However, the scoring onslaught from Fox continued as she added nine more points in the period. WCDS went down 29-19 at the break, with Fox out-scoring the Chargers by herself.
“She played extremely well,” coach Jones said. “It was hard for us to deal with her and the give-and-go sets they were running.”
The hole got even bigger for the Chargers in the second half as O’Neal’s (22-3) ballooned to 22 points. Brunson and Jada Vanderhorst tried to keep the Chargers close, but the damage was done. Taylor Woods hit consecutive shots to keep the Falcons in control.
The Chargers gave up 21 points in the third and were down, 50-30 going into the final quarter. Wayne Country Day battled to cut into their deficit, and they got it down to 11, but it was too late.
Despite getting the top seed in the state playoffs, the hosts had to watch the visitors celebrate advancing to the state championship on their home floor. Had WCDS won, they would’ve played at the University of Mount Olive.
While it’s the end of the 2022 season, Coach Jones expects to be back in position to compete for a state championship in 2023. Wayne Country Day loses only one senior: Kimora Cox, who played three years for the Chargers and was a part of three conference title-winning teams.
“Kimora has been the defensive anchor and emotional leader of this team,” Jones said. “We’re going to miss her very much as she heads to the next level, and it’s going to be hard to replace her. I’m still excited for next season with what we have coming back, and we’re looking forward to chasing a ring again.”