Earl’s Pearls 2/19

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.’’

SCORES
Feb. 15
Basketball
Boys
Sandhills Conference tournament
Seventy-First 56, Jack Britt 51
Girls
Jack Britt 75, Hoke County 31
Seventy-First 70, Scotland 31
 
 
Feb. 16
Basketball
Boys
Westover 57, E.E. Smith 54
Girls
Cape Fear 59, Westover 33
Lacrosse
Boys
Fuquay-Varina 22, Terry Sanford 1
Girls
Terry Sanford 22, Union Pines 5
 
Feb. 17
Basketball
Boys
Sandhills Conference tournament
Pinecrest 75, Seventy-First 70, OT
Scotland 61, Jack Britt 52
Girls
Jack Britt 66, Purnell Swett 56
Pinecrest 55, Seventy-First 41
 
 

Feb. 18

Basketball

Boys
Cape Fear 59, E.E. Smith 42
Girls
Gray’s Creek 38, Westover 35
 
NCISAA basketball playoffs
Feb. 16
2-A boys
Northwood Temple 102, Thales-Apex 29
Trinity Christian 92, Faith Christian 43
Freedom Christian 96, Neuse Christian 52
Harrells Christian 70, Village Christian 51
3-A boys
Cary Christian 57, Fayetteville Christian 55
2-A girls
Village Christian 65, Harrells Christian 18
Feb. 18
2-A boys
Northwood Temple 78, Thales-Rolesville 42
2-A girls
Northwood Temple 63, Freedom Christian 46
Village Christian 46, Neuse Christian 27
3-A girls
Parrott Academy 44, Fayetteville Christian 24
 
PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Westover boys basketball players huddle in a game vs. Red Springs last month after teammate Mikey Campbell (4) was fouled. The Wolverines, 10-2, placed second in the Patriot Athletic Conference and will wait until Sunday to find out their opponent in next week’s state 3-A playoffs.