Ellis girls approaching school record

Published 10:01 am Friday, January 6, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The Ellis girls basketball team is loving life right now. With six games remaining, the Jaguars (7-1) have already matched the most wins in the last nine years. (They won seven in 2016-17 and in 2018-19.) They need three victories to set a new program record.

They notched their fourth triumph by 25-plus points when they hosted North Carolina Leadership Academy on Dec. 12. Eight girls scored – Emmie Burris had 12, Olivia Smith 12, Gracyn Coleman six, Kayden Richardson six, Madison Daugherty four, Olivia Rareshide two, Sydney Ward two and Zoe Summers two – as Ellis floored the Falcons 46-7.

Smith, Richardson and Kate Nicholson pulled down six rebounds apiece.

“All of the girls have learned a lot this first half of the season and it has been fun to watch them grow as a team,” coach Susan Jones said. “All of the girls played well and we encouraged them to use this game to work on our passing and running our halfcourt offense.”

Ellis 40, WCA 25

Ellis had a battle on its hands against visiting Wesleyan Christian Academy on Dec. 15.

It was 18-16 at halftime, 23-20 after the third quarter. The Jaguars had the lead, but they did not have easy prey – not at that moment, anyway.

“At halftime we reminded them that they needed to not only keep the defensive pressure up, but actually kick it up a notch,” Jones said. “The girls answered this challenge. Unfortunately, we struggled with our own shots. We needed to step up and make some buckets.”

A sixth-grader, Cayleigh Love, and the Jags had a scoring explosion at the most opportune time. They boat-raced the Trojans 17-5 in the fourth to win going away, their sixth win by at least 15. Love, who entered the fray when Coleman picked up her fourth foul early in the fourth, had eight of the 17. Burris had five.

“Cayleigh came in and gave us the spark we needed on both ends of the court,” Jones said. “Cayleigh’s defensive pressure on the ball, coupled with Madison pressuring off the ball, had the turnovers ramping up against Wesleyan, and we then went on an 11-0 run.”

The four-guard lineup of Burris, Coleman, Daugherty and Love wreaked havoc defensively.

“They combined for at least 13 steals and spearheaded our press,” Jones said. “This was critical because we were outsized under the basket with Wesleyan having two talented post players.

“This was a big game with Wesleyan being one of the top four teams in the conference. It was a much-needed win to get us geared up for the second half of the season.”

Burris finished with nine points and four rebounds. Smith had eight points and four rebounds. Love, who was averaging 2.1 points a game, came up with eight. Nicholson had five, Coleman four, Richardson four and Daugherty two.

“Kate’s inside presence kept Wesleyan from straying too far from the paint,” Jones said. “Emmie continued to be strong and consistent. Kayden had four points while battling severe shin splints and only playing a minimal number of minutes after the first quarter. This even distribution of scoring is what makes our team so difficult to defend.”

ND 30, Canterbury 24

North Davie found its groove when it mattered most and rallied past visiting Canterbury on Dec. 13.

Avarie Martin and Maddie Ratledge staked the Wildcats to a first-quarter lead, but they were in a little trouble entering the fourth quarter, the Cougars leading 21-18.

“We talked at halftime about rebounding and playing more aggressively offensively and defensively,” coach Trish King said. “The game was still close at the end of the third, and I challenged the girls to play the fourth quarter as if it was their last game ever.”

They took the message to heart. Hayden Gavura, Britt Carrier, Ratledge and Alyssa Hinson delivered baskets as North buried Canterbury 12-3 in the final seven minutes.

“Britt kicked it up a notch and everyone seemed to follow,” King said. “We just played more aggressively during the fourth quarter.”

Ratledge finished with 10 points. Martin, who was averaging a team-best 13.6, was limited to six by foul trouble; she was whistled for her fifth with three minutes remaining. But North survived because of Ratledge’s production and six points from Gavura and Carrier. Hinson had two.

“Avarie sat most of the third in foul trouble,” King said. “I was really proud of how the girls rallied and believed in each other in the end. Having Avarie out could have really hurt us, but the girls hung tight and finished with confidence.”

Summit 38, ND 34

Martin’s outing on the road on Dec. 15 won’t be forgotten anytime soon – even though it came in defeat.

She hit 8 of 12 free throws and scored the most points by a Wildcat since Nadelie Jones’ 28 in a 44-40 loss to Ellis in January of 2020. Somehow the Eagles withstood Martin’s 28-point barrage, five more than she had in a game earlier in the season.

If it wasn’t for that individual explosion, North would have been blown out. Martin had 11 of North’s 13 in the second quarter and 10 of its 12 in the fourth. Just think what she might have done if it weren’t for two first-half fouls.

“She sat most of the first and second quarters with two fouls, but came on strong when I put her back in near the end of the second quarter,” King said. “Most of her points came from drives to the basket. We have an out-of-bounds play set up for her under the basket, and six of her points came from that play. She has great range and can knock down a 3-pointer in a heartbeat. One of her biggest assets is her jump shots. I was happy Avarie got to showcase her talent against Summit’s best player (Lila Kelly), who I think could play for anyone’s high school varsity team.”

North’s other six points came from Carrier (four) and Hinson (two). It had won three of four and two straight before slipping to 4-3.

“They are undefeated in our conference, so I was really proud of my girls for hanging tight with them,” King said. “(Landry Parsons and Audrina Bledsoe played) great defense. Their presence is felt on the court and vital to our success as a team.”

Notes: After winning two in a row, South Davie lost 48-36 at home to Summit on Dec. 12. The Tigers (2-6) fell 29-23 to visiting Phoenix Academy on Dec. 15.