Girls show poise, win opener

Published 9:45 am Friday, November 30, 2018

Davie’s varsity girls basketball team closed last season on a 12-game losing streak, getting outscored by an average of 64-25 during the freefall. It finished the 2017-18 season with a 3-21 record. It enjoyed just nine wins the past two years. It opened the 2018-19 season against Rockingham County, which blasted Davie 56-28 in last year’s opener.

February 2018 was the depths of despair. The first game of the 2018-19 season saw Davie jubilation. The War Eagles averaged a paltry 23.7 points in the final seven games last winter. They doubled that output in the 48-42 triumph over the visiting Cougars on Nov. 20.

Whoa Nellie.

“I’m so proud of the kids because they have worked tremendously hard every single day in practice,” coach Kevin Revels said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to have enough kids to practice and to simulate the kind of pressure you see in a game situation.”

“And we did it with two starters (Emma Slabach and Lexie May) on the bench most of the game (due to foul trouble),” assistant coach Tim Kenney said. “Emma and Lexie spent three-fourths of the game on the bench. What a great team win.”

Slabach was a key varsity player as a freshman and sophomore, but she did not play as a junior. In her return, she cannonballed off the diving board and made a majestic splash.

In the first quarter, she banged two 3-pointers, scored on a layup and hit a runner. She scored 11 of Davie’s 13 points in the first, sparking a 13-9 lead. She didn’t score again, largely because of fouls. She picked up three personals in the first half and a fourth in the third quarter.

The amazing thing wasn’t that Slabach provided double-figure scoring. (She did that 15 times across her freshman/sophomore years.) It was that she exploded right off the bat in her first basketball action since Feb. 13, 2017.

“Obviously she came out on fire,” Revels said. “It didn’t look like she had missed a beat. When she gets back to being comfortable playing at game speed and keeping herself out of foul trouble, she’s going to be a very impressive player this year. We noticed it the last couple of practices, where she was back to the form where she just rips the net and it doesn’t touch any metal.”

The Cougars charged in front in the second quarter, led 21-18 at the half and ended the third with a 38-35 lead.

One reason Davie rallied in the fourth: After having problems taking care of the ball in the first half, it did a much better job in that category in the second half. Another reason: Davie hit 9 of 14 free throws in the fourth. London Dirks, Klara Lewis and Morgan Lewis all went 2 for 2 and Bella Kite hit 2 of 3 as Davie outscored Rockingham 13-4 in the decisive fourth.

“We cut the turnovers way down in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter,” Revels said. “We hit free throws, something we could not do last year, and that’s the difference in the game.”

After a two-point first half, M. Lewis, the top returning scorer, came alive when it mattered most. Playing with a veteran’s poise and confidence, she had 15 golden points in the final 16 minutes.

“She played like an animal,” Revels said. “She played like the type of senior leader that we expect her to be and need her to be. They changed to a man defense in the second quarter, we had trouble adjusting and we were turning the ball over. It wasn’t a Morgan thing; it was an all-of-us thing. We did a much better job of running our motion offense against their man in the second half.”

Kite, a sophomore in her first year at Davie, announced her arrival with eight points, two 3s and seven team-high rebounds.

“I told Tim yesterday after practice: ‘The wild card is going to be Bella,’” he said. “And she really was. She played like an experienced player. She gives us the ability to play her at three different positions, which really helps us. She played good defense. She rebounded well. She hit two big (3s). And she’s smart with the ball. I think she had one turnover all night and she played a lot of minutes.”

K. Lewis had five points. May fouled out with three points and five rebounds. Dirks and Olivia Tatum had two points each in their freshman debuts. Tatum added four rebounds and four team-high assists as Davie celebrated its first win since 54-30 over North Stanly on Dec. 30, 2017.

“Olivia provided us with a spark of energy,” he said. “She struggled like you’d expect a freshman to struggle with a few turnovers and not being used to the varsity level. But she was a spark of energy.”

Add it up and Davie stunned an opponent that has been formidable. Last year the Cougars went 25-5, and they went a robust 101-18 over the previous four seasons. By contrast, Davie went 43-56 during the same span.

But with the game hanging in the balance, it was the underdog showing poise and prevailing.

“They walk into the gym expecting to win every time,” Revels said. “We didn’t quit. We fought them until the very end and made more plays than them in the fourth quarter.”

Notes: Revels pointed proudly to his assistants, Kenney and Debbie Evans. “I couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for two better assistant coaches.” … The seniors are Slabach, M. Lewis, Maddie Tellup and May. The only junior is K. Lewis. Kite and Layla Caldwell are sophomores. There are five freshmen: Dirks, Tatum, Kaylyn Nuckols, Madison Singleton and Krystal Davis.