Girls basketball: Erwin finishes perfect season
By Mike London
LANDIS — McKenzie Misenheimer loves softball, but her friends and coaches talked her into trying basketball this year.
Their persistence paid off with a championship. Misenheimer’s pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter enabled the Erwin Middle School girls to finish a perfect season on Wednesday.
“I shot with confidence,” Misenheimer said. “When you play with confidence, you can do a lot.”
Top-seeded Erwin held off second-seeded China Grove, 35-32, in the tournament championship game for seventh-graders (with some sixth-graders sprinkled in) that was played in front of an overflow crowd at Corriher-Lipe Middle School.
Erwin (17-0) was the only team that beat the China Grove girls, taking three close ones. China Grove, coached by Marcus White, finished 14-3.
That’s 51 straight wins for Erwin’s girls basketball program. They went undefeated in seventh-grade competition in the 2015-16 school year. Then their seventh and eighth-grade squads both ran the table this season.
China Grove outplayed Erwin, 17-7, in one long stretch, turning an eight-point second-quarter deficit into a small lead early in the fourth quarter. Makayla Johnson put the Red Devils on top at the foul line, and half the crowd roared.
“China Grove had taken the momentum away from us and we were in some foul trouble,” Erwin coach Bridget Boling said. “That’s when we told the girls they were undefeated and it was time to play like it.”
Mary Spry’s relentless rebound bucket, following her own miss, gave Erwin a 29-28 lead with 3:30 left, and guard Madie Honeycutt made a difficult driving shot for a three-point lead. Then Misenheimer banked in a back-breaking 3-pointer from way out on the left side.
She didn’t mean to bank it, but she put it up confidently, and good things happened for her.
“I’d missed some, but Coach told me to keep shooting,” Misenheimer said.
Erwin trailed after a quarter, 7-5, but Hannah Isley took over for the Eagles in the second quarter. With Erwin trailing 14-12, she scored on a drive and then made a 3-pointer. When she whipped the ball to Katelyn Griggs for a layup, Erwin led 16-9.
Erwin was up 20-14 at halftime, but China Grove ruled the third quarter, slowing down Erwin and getting points from Johnson, Aliyah White, Bethany Rymer and Lyonna Parker.
It was 24-all heading to the fourth quarter. Misenheimer opened that final quarter by swishing a 3-pointer. Those points turned out to be huge because East wouldn’t score again for several minutes.
” We were grateful that McKenzie made those shots,” Spry said.
Isley scored 11 points for Erwin. Spry had eight and was the Eagles’ leading rebounder.
Erwin had a close call in a semifinal before getting past Knox,26-24.
“We lost some of our confidence in that game because we didn’t play well and it was really close,” Spry said. “But we worked on stuff at practice on Tuesday. We worked on boxing out a lot, and that’s why I was able to get so many rebounds today.”
The constant for the Eagles all season was defense. Defense saved them on Wednesday. Johnson and Rymer were deadly at the foul line, but China Grove only made eight field goals.
“Defense keyed our team,” Boling said. “I’m glad for these girls. They worked for an undefeated season, and they really earned it.”
China Grove (32) — Johnson 10, Rymer 7, White 6, Kimball 5, Parker 2, Morgan 2
Erwin (35) — H. Isley 11, Spry 8, Misenheimer 6, Honeycutt 6, Dalton 2, Griggs 2.
(2) China Grove 7 7 10 8 — 32
(1) Erwin 5 15 4 11 — 35