The Ragsdale Tiger women used intense full-court pressure and capitalized on turnovers by the Northwest Vikings to best the defending champions, the Vikings, in the 43rd annual HAECO Invitational at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center on Friday night.
Ragsdale was making its second appearance in the HAECO Invitational Championship game, with one HAECO title in the history of the tournament. The defending champion Vikings were making their 13th appearance in the title game and have won the HAECO title a grand total of seven times, including the past four consecutive seasons.
But this night, the Vikings were missing two Virginia Tech-bound seniors, point guard Cayla King, who left the game on Wednesday after suffering a high ankle sprain, and Liz Kitley, a 6’5” center who hasn’t played all year because of a torn ACL.
Ragsdale head coach Ben Bradford knew his team had to take full advantage of that fact.
“We wanted to play fast and play pressure defense,” Bradford said. “We wanted to create as many turnovers as we could. If we could play the game up and down, it eliminates some of their size advantage against us.”
Although Ragsdale struggled to hit baskets in the first half, shooting a mere 35% from the field, the Tigers trailed by just three points at halftime. The score was 22-19. Ragsdale’s defense forced nine turnovers in the first half.
In the third quarter, with their offense still struggling to make shots, it was steady defensive play that kept the Tigers within reach. Northwest’s lead was cut to one-point at the end of three, 32-33.
Ragsdale hefted a final push, but Northwest was also determined.
The two teams traded baskets in the final eight minutes. Ragsdale saw their offense finally come around, as they pulled ahead by as many as four points in the final quarter.
The Vikings came back from that deficit and pulled within one point in the final minutes, but full-court pressure from the Tigers broke the Vikings down as they tried to mount a comeback.
The Tigers strung together an 8-4 run at the end of the quarter to regain the lead and held on to win the second HAECO Invitational title in school history by a final score of 50-45.
Ragsdale forced the Vikings to commit 21 turnovers, and, in turn, scored 24 points. Turnovers were the game-changer.
The 2018 HAECO Invitational Women’s All-Tournament team featured Greensboro Day’s Je’Bria Fullwood, Northwest’s Thalia Carter and Reagan Kargo, and Ragsdale’s KD Walker, Nyah Stallings, and Faith Price. Ragsdale’s Faith Price took home the 2018 HAECO Invitational MVP award.
Bradford was happy with the effort from his team, even though his normally smooth-shooting team struggled offensively.
“They weren’t going down for us tonight,” he said. “Our defense showed up, we got turnovers and made lay-ups, and that’s the way we wanted to play.”
The head coach said hard work and determination paid off for his team.
“They are great kids. When you coach great kids who work hard, good things will happen eventually. It’s satisfying to know that the kids came in, busted their tail in the off-season, faced negativity, and believed in themselves.”
Tournament MVP Faith Price, a transfer to Ragsdale, was playing in her first HAECO Invitational.
“It means a lot to win the MVP,” Price said. “This is my first time playing in this tournament. I came from Southwest Guilford, and to win MVP my first year is exciting.”
The Tigers remain undefeated on the season with a record of (10-0) after winning their second HAECO Invitational championship in tournament history.
Northwest Guilford drops to (7-3) after the loss.
Reagan Kargo: 16pts, 5reb, asst, stl
Megan Harkey: 13pts, 14reb, 3blk, asst
Thalia Carter: 6pts, 4stl, 3asst, 2reb
Aniston Greene: 4pts, 7reb, 2asst
Jadyn Murray: 4pts, 2reb, 2stl
Shaena Riddles: 2pts, 3reb
Faith Price: 15pts, 2reb, 2stl
Nyah Stallings: 11pts, 6reb, 2stl, asst
KD Walker: 7pts, 4reb, 4asst, 2stl
Diamond Monroe: 6pts, 4reb, asst, stl
Brooke Bradford: 5pts, 3stl, asst
Mariah Frazier: 3pts, 3reb, 3stl, asst
Camryn Briley: 3pts, stl
The Northwest Guilford boys came into the 43rd annual HAECO Invitational as the second-seeded team, despite the fact that the Vikings hadn’t won a men’s title in the history of the tournament. That changed on Friday with an overtime victory. The Vikings topped the first-seeded and perpetual defending champions, the Greensboro Day School Bengals, with a last-second layup for a final score of 68-67, winning its first men’s HAECO Invitational title.
Greensboro Day jumped out to an early lead, thanks in large part to four consecutive three pointers by Cam Hayes. Northwest fought back, and led 16-14 at the end of the first quarter.
The Vikings and Bengals battled each other throughout the second quarter, trading baskets and exchanging leads. When it appeared that the Vikings were getting hot, Day School would answer, and vice-versa. The Vikings held a mere one-point halftime advantage, 30-29.
Brandon Thomas led the Vikings in scoring in the first half with 13 points. Cam Hayes led Greensboro Day, and all shooters, with a total of 14 first-half points.
In the third quarter, the game continued the back-and-forth pace it maintained for the first half. Northwest pulled away by as many as seven points, but two more sizzling three-pointers from Cam Hayes narrowed the Viking lead to one by quarter’s end. Northwest maintained their one-point lead, 47-46.
By the fourth-quarter, it was obvious that this game would come down to the wire. The Bengals and Vikings were tied five times in the final eight minutes, and the quarter ended in a tie. The teams were deadlocked at 60.
Northwest trailed by as many as five points in the overtime period before mounting a game-saving comeback with just more than a minute to play.
The Vikings’ Christian Hampton made a basket, and on the ensuing in-bounds pass, Greensboro Day’s Nicholas Evtimov was called out of bounds. The turnover gave the Vikings another opportunity to score, and they capitalized. Brandon Thomas converted a second frantic attempt and the Vikings trailed by one. After a Vikings timeout, the Bengals’ Carson McCorkle was fouled on the in-bounds pass and missed his free-throw. Northwest came down with the rebound with seconds left in the game. Brandon Thomas drove the lane and scored the game-winning basket with seven seconds remaining. The Vikings held off the Bengals last attempt and secured the victory as the crowd screamed its approval – and disapproval.
The Vikings were led by Christian Hampton who scored a game high 24 points, as well as Thomas who scored 21, and Dean Reiber chipped in 17.
Greensboro Day’s Hayes finished with 21 points. The Bengals got double-doubles from both Josh Taylor who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Evtimov contributed 10 points and 12 boards. Carson McCorkle was held to just eight points by the Vikings defense.
For the first time since 2010, there is a HAECO Champion other than the Bengals. No other team has more HAECO titles than Greensboro Day, who has 16 championships in 21 title game appearances. Northwest Guilford at last won its first HAECO title in 13 tries.
The 2018 HAECO Invitational All-Tournament team included Page’s Jaden Ellis, Greensboro Day’s Cam Hayes and Josh Taylor, and Northwest’s Brandon Thomas, Dean Reiber, and Christian Hampton was named the MVP.
Northwest head coach Lee Reavis’ formula to victory was simple.
“Just play,” Reavis said. “Come out and be aggressive.”
The coach believes his team’s never-give-up attitude pulled them through.
“There were several times tonight when we could’ve folded and we didn’t. We showed a lot of heart, composure and didn’t give up on each other. If you’re going to compete at a high level you have to have everyone on the team on the same page and pulling for each other.”
Brandon Thomas recapped the Vikings nail-biting final possession.
“I was coming down the court and saw the clock running down and an open lane; I knew I had a big guy on me, so I hit him with a cross-over and laid it in.”
Northwest improves to (9-2) with the victory, and Greensboro Day is now (13-4) overall on the season.
GREENSBORO DAY STATS:
Cam Hayes: 21pts, 3reb, 3asst, stl
Josh Taylor: 17pts, 12reb, 3asst, blk
Nicholas Evtimov: 10pts, 12reb
Banks Handy: 9pts
Carson McCorkle: 8pts, 3reb
Austin Inge: 2pts, 6asst, 2reb
Christian Hampton: 24pts, 7reb, 7asst, 2stl, blk
Brandon Thomas: 21pts, 4reb, 3asst
Dean Reiber: 17pts, 6reb, asst, blk
Robbie Boulton: 6pts, reb asst, stl