The steadiness at the foul line from Cayla King and the inside pressure of Elizabeth Kitley were too much for the previously undefeated Bulldogs of Southeastern Raleigh as they lost to the Northwest Guilford Vikings in the Women’s 4-A state championship game in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon.
Northwest took advantage of a slow-paced, low-scoring contest in Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of N.C. State University as they battled their way to the first girls’ basketball state championship in Northwest High School history.
The opening quarter saw only 14 points racked up between the two teams, with the score knotted at seven at quarter’s end.
In the second quarter, foul trouble began to plague the Vikings when 6’4” sophomore Elizabeth Kitley was called for her third foul at the 1:22 mark in the game, which happened to be in the middle of an 13-1 Southeastern Raleigh run to end the second quarter. After Kitley was taken out of the game for foul trouble, the Bulldogs took over the lead and outscored the Vikings 6-1.
Turnovers were also critical for the Vikings in the second, with the Bulldogs scoring 10 points on 11 Northwest turnovers.
Coach Darlene Joyner knew that the game was going to be a tight one, and so she prepared her team for a close game down to the wire at halftime.
“We talked, and I thought that we were running our offense too high,” Joyner said of her halftime message to the team. “We changed up our defense a little bit to stop the penetration inside. We changed it up, but made an emphasis on the things that were affecting us the most.”
The Vikings came out and got Elizabeth Kitley involved immediately when the game resumed from halftime. She scored seven of nine third- quarter Viking points and the Northwest defense held Southeastern Raleigh to just four points in the entire third quarter. The two teams were tied once again at the end of the third quarter, this time at 25.
The fourth quarter was the Cayla King show, as the sophomore guard hit a big three-pointer and then converted (6-6) on free throws down the stretch to keep her team ahead.
With the Vikings’ lead cut to just two at 36-34, Southeastern Raleigh forced a turnover and got the ball in their own end with three seconds to go. Coach Darlene Joyner emphasized that the team “had fouls to give away from the ball, but not to foul the shooter,” Cayla King said.
The Bulldogs had time. The in-bounds pass went to Tamia Hicks who put up an unsuccessful desperation shot. The Vikings had held on. There was a celebration at center court.
This is the first time in Joyner’s 32-year coaching career that she has brought home the state title.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Joyner said of the win. “We were here last year and got so close. The girls still had the memory of last year and it came down to the wire again. We’re just honored and very blessed that we came out on top of it.”
The Bulldogs Most Outstanding Player was Tamia Hicks. Cayla King snagged the Vikings Most Outstanding Player, and the honor of Kay Yow MVP was bestowed on Elizabeth Kitley.
Kitley said she was going to make sure that she reminds her dad, Northwest principal Ralph Kitley, of the award often. Ralph Kitley won the 1986 state championship MVP award as a senior. “Now I can look at him and say I did it as a sophomore,” Elizabeth joked.
Coach Joyner also commended the play of her starters, as there were only a grand total of two substituting minutes from senior guard Sandra Womack. That starter-stamina is an amazing feat in itself.
“These girls are in phenomenal shape,” Joyner said. “Last year we were nine and ten people deep. This year that wasn’t the case.”
The starting five for the Vikings all return next year. Now, a team that some said were perhaps too young to win it all can return with a state championship under its belt.
CAYLA KING: 16pts, 7 reb, 3 asst, 2 stl
ELIZABETH KITLEY: 15pts, 10 reb, 5blk
BRIA GIBBS: 5pts, 6 reb, asst, blk