By Earl Vaughan Jr.
It was almost a season that wasn’t. Nattlie McArthur and her Jack Britt girls had to deal with quarantine, cancellations of games and, finally, playing only half of a Sandhills Athletic Conference basketball schedule.
But when the regular season finally ended last week, McArthur and her Buccaneers had their second consecutive conference basketball title clinched, finishing with a 9-0 record.
Since then they’ve added two more wins in the league tournament, they will host third-seeded Pinecrest today seeking to add the conference tournament championship.
“It’s just super amazing seeing the hard work the girls put in, even with having the delay and having to wait to play, but still coming to practice and being motivated, pushing hard.’’
The conference athletic directors made the decision early on to only play the second half of the conference schedule after COVID-related problems around the league.
Because of the missed games early in the season, the athletic directors decided to have a sort of losers bracket in the conference tournament, letting every team in the league play a game all three days of the tournament.
“We need the games,’’ McArthur said of the tournament games. “We still have stuff we need to work on. We’re going to take one game at a time.’’
Nyla Cooper has provided much of the senior leadership for the Buccaneers this season. McArthur called her the floor general.
Ashara Hayes is the team’s leading scorer and helps out with rebounding and as a defender. Amber Nealy is also averaging double figures, while Nariyah Nixon isn’t a big offensive threat but contributes a lot of intangibles, providing rebounding and motivation for her teammates.
Cooper said the Britt team had to battle back after going into COVID quarantine for two weeks early in the season and missing some games.
“We have to focus on perfecting our plays, executing and doing what we need to do one game at a time to do well in the state playoffs,’’ Cooper said. “We have a strong team to get the things we need to get done.
“We come in playing hard so that’s all that really matters.’’
McArthur’s biggest concern about the postseason is the lack of information on opposing teams once the pairings are set this Sunday.
“We are going in a little blind,’’ she said. “But having a senior-led team helps. These girls really make it happen.’’