McEachern’s girls basketball team is facing adversity at the worst time of year.
The four-time defending state champion Lady Indians are facing a tough enough test with Wednesday’s Class AAAAAAA state quarterfinal at a Norcross team looking for payback after coming up short to McEachern in last year’s title game. However, the Lady Indians (21-5) will have to take on the Lady Blue Devils (25-3) without forward Kemia Ward, who suffered a torn ACL during the fourth quarter of McEachern’s 81-53 win over Tift County in the second round Thursday.
McEachern may also be without Chanel Wilson, who also left the game with a knee injury. Wilson was scheduled to get an MRI today, coach Phyllis Arthur said, and her status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain.
Despite the setbacks, Arthur said her team is still focused on the job at hand.
“I tell my girls that they have to play,” she said. “If they lose, they don’t get another chance. We have to want it more than they do.”
Even if McEachern is without Ward and Wilson, it still has the players to get it done.
Georgia Tech signee Jasmine Carson scored 22 points against Tift County and has been the Lady Indians’ most consistent scorer. Freshman Denim DeShields — the younger sister of former Norcross and college star Diamond DeShields — can also score from the perimeter and in transition, and the Lady Indians have been getting timely buckets from Jewel Smalls and Victoria Agyin.
“(Norcross) can score inside and out,” Arthur said. “We have to stop their run and keep them off the boards because they are pretty strong.”
Hillgrove is in the quarterfinals for the first time since it made a run to the 2012 state championship game before losing to rival McEachern.
This year, if the Powder Springs neighbors have their way, they will have a rematch for championship. First, Hillgrove will have to take care of its business Tuesday at North Forsyth.
Hillgrove (19-7) lost to North Forsyth (26-2) in overtime at the beginning of the season, when it was testing a four-out motion offense that allows more room inside the lanes. Since then, the Lady Hawks have gotten comfortable with the offense and seen solid contributions from point guard and Whitefield Academy transfer Laren VanArsdale, as well as Aisya Davis.
Hillgrove also knows that North Forsyth is more polished. Coach Susan Milam said the Lady Raiders can shoot the 3-pointer and move the ball well, and they are patient on offense.
“We have to minimize turnovers and contest their 3-point shots,” Milam said. “We have to get on the boards and not let them outrebound us.”
Harrison (24-4), looking to get back into the Class AAAAAA state championship game for the second straight year, will host Tucker (21-9) on Tuesday.
The Lady Hoyas hit 24 of 29 free throws in their 61-54 win over Lanier in the second round. They were 17-for-20 from the line in the fourth quarter alone.
Sarah Woghiren, who has been playing well during the postseason, made eight of her 11 free throws and led Harrison with 18 points.
“I know we are going to keep doing the things that we do well,” Harrison coach Steve Lenahan said.