Varsity girls get CPC win

Published 9:21 am Thursday, February 4, 2021

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The Davie varsity girls basketball team was reeling, losing by 44, 23 and 42. Next up was Reynolds, which easily handled the War Eagles 53-38 on Jan. 19, extending its winning streak over Davie to 26.

What’s more, Reynolds lost by seven to Reagan; Reagan mashed Davie by 23. Reynolds lost by 17 to East Forsyth; East hammered Davie by 44.

At that moment, you wouldn’t have bet much on Davie’s chances against the visiting Demons on Jan. 29.

Well, guess what happened. The War Eagles got off the deck and stunned the Demons 51-48. Nine days after stopping a 28-game losing streak, the War Eagles ended a 15-game losing streak in the Central Piedmont Conference and beat Reynolds for the first time in 13 years.

“After each game, we no longer talk about it,” coach Lindsey Adams said. “Even the next day at practice, we don’t reflect on what we could have done in that game. We talk about what we’re going to do the next game.”

It was close from start to finish. Davie had a 12-10 lead, but it trailed by single digits for a long time – until Elizabeth Johnson stole a pass and sped down the court to tie the score at 29.

Reynolds retook the lead and put game pressure back on Davie. When the Demons scored off a turnover, it was 40-34 visitors and Adams signaled for a timeout. This was the moment of truth.

“They just wanted it,” Adams said of her girls. “After the third quarter, I said: ‘I need eight minutes. How bad do you want this game? You can either push yourself for eight minutes and come out with the win or you can be tired and let them take it from you.’”

Inspired by Somer Johnson, the War Eagles closed the game on a 17-8 run. S. Johnson checked into the game for the first time at the 2:13 mark of the third quarter. She never came out. She was terrific for 10 minutes, 13 seconds – her 16-footer triggering the game-ending surge.

Malayka Rankin passed it to Kenadi Gentry, who buried a 3. Gentry got a steal and hit S. Johnson, who converted a layup. Gentry passed it ahead to S. Johnson, who nailed a triple in transition to give Davie a 44-42 lead. E. Johnson scored inside. S. Johnson got a defensive rebound and dribbled it all the way down, then lobbed a pass over a defender to E. Johnson, who put it in to give Davie a 48-44 lead.

It was 48-46 in the final minute. The Johnson & Johnson combination made it 50-46, with Somer inbounding on the right baseline to Elizabeth, who made a layup with her off (left) hand to extend the lead to 50-46.

Davie outscored Reynolds 20-14 with S. Johnson on the floor. After arriving with a 3.3 scoring average, the sophomore scored a season-high eight on 3-of-6 shooting. She also contributed two rebounds and two assists.

“We definitely talk about being a team,” Adams said. “Somer went in, took care of business and did everything she was asked to do. She was a spark that our team needed in order to come back. At the end of the game, I told her: ‘That takes a very unselfish player to do that (after not playing in the first half). I recognize that and respect that.’ I was really proud of her.”

Davie held on by a thread in the dying seconds. Up 50-48, it committed a turnover under Reynolds’ basket. Fortunately for Davie, a Demon missed a wide-open layup. Then a Demon missed a long two. Davie threw it away again on Reynolds’ end of the court, but again the Demons couldn’t take advantage. They misfired on a driving layup and then were whistled for a double-dribble. They had to foul Gentry with four seconds left, and she hit 1 of 2 for the game’s final point.

The War Eagles had their first CPC win since a 57-49 decision over Reagan on Feb. 15, 2019, when Morgan Lewis had 22 and Emma Slabach 21. They had their first win over Reynolds since Debbie Evans’ squad won 63-54 in 2007-08, when Meisha Fowler scored 18 and Alicia Allen and Kaycee Dixon added 13 each.

A number of players made the significant moment possible. E. Johnson could do no wrong down the stretch, finishing with 11 points.

“At the end, they knew they had to go man-to-man, and Reynolds didn’t have anybody that could stop Liz,” Adams said. “Once Somer hit some shots and we hit a few 3s on their zone, they went man. Once they did that, we isolated Liz and that’s what gets her going.”

London Dirks, who was averaging 2.8, raised her game to a new level with 11 career-high points, making 3 of 6 3s and pulling down five rebounds.

“London had the hot hand,” Adams said. “She’s not normally our go-to 3-point shooter, but after she hit the second one, we started calling plays for her to shoot. Whoever has the hot hand is who we’re going to.”

Gentry played with amazing poise for a freshman. When Olivia Tatum fouled out, the point-guard duties were exclusively in Gentry’s hands. She barely looked like a 14-year-old kid playing in her second varsity game. Her line: nine points, two 3s, four rebounds, two assists, two steals.

“Kenadi will be a big player for Davie in the future,” Adams said. “She can handle the ball so well. She gets the ball in the right people’s hands. After Olivia fouled out, Kenadi was our best ball handler. You never know how a freshman is going to take on that responsibility. With 1:30 to go, we were drawing up a play for their fullcourt man, and she looked me in the eyes and said: ‘Coach, give me the ball. I want the ball.’ For a freshman to want the ball in that type of situation showed what type of player she is and what she’s going to continue to be.”

And what a performance by center Layla Caldwell. After scoring six points in six games, she turned in a career-high eight. She also controlled 10 rebounds and made two steals.

“That is something we’ve seen from Layla in practice,” she said. “We know she has it in her, but she hasn’t had the confidence to do it in a game. At the end of practice or after a game, she’ll come up to me and say: ‘Coach, what can I improve on today?’ She’s always wanting to get better. She stepped up.”

Although she wasn’t a scoring factor, Tatum (two points) stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Isabella Kite chipped in two points as Davie, which had dropped 36 of 37 in the CPC, improved to 2-5 overall and 1-4 in the league. Reynolds dropped to 3-5, 2-4.

Notes: In the first of three games last week, Davie was never in contention in a 51-28 loss at Reagan on Jan. 26. Davie’s scoring: Keelyn Oakes 8, S. Johnson 5, Tatum 4, Dirks 4, E. Johnson 4, Caldwell 2 and Rankin 1. … One day later, the War Eagles hosted the eighth-ranked team in 3-A, Carson. It was obviously a mismatch, 56-14. The unbeaten Cougars (7-0) ran their regular-season winning streak to 15. They’ve drubbed everybody by at least 25 points. Davie’s points came from S. Johnson (six), Gentry (five) and Tatum (three).