Neither North Surry nor Clinton’s girls’ basketball team has tasted defeat during 2017. Coming into Saturday evening’s 2A state championship game at Reynolds Coliseum, each team will put a 22-game winning streak on the line.
The Lady Greyhounds (26-5), who were seeded seventh in the region will take on Clinton (29-2), the East Region’s second seed, at Reynolds Coliseum at North Carolina State University on Saturday at 5:05 p.m. in hopes of capturing the programs first NCHSAA Championship title.
In spite of that, some people might argue that the Lady Hounds kind of flew under the radar on their way to the cusp of a state championship. North Surry won the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles without a loss, but a 4-5 start to the season kept them out of the poll-watchers’ eyes for most of the year. In the final NCPreps.com media poll, the Lady Hounds tied for the ninth spot. Ahead of them were three teams that they vanquished in the state playoffs, Mountain Heritage, North Wilkes, and East Burke, who they downed in three consecutive games away from home, the last one to win the West Regional title last weekend.
If North Surry wins the state championship, it will be four higher-ranked victims in a row. The Lady Darkhorses ended the season as NCPreps’ top-ranked team in the 2A girls ranks.
The reason had to do with the schedule that North Surry athletic director Shane Slate put together for head girls’ basketball coach Shane Slate.
“That’s something we’ve always tried to do, in volleyball and in basketball,” said Slate, who already owns two state titles as the school’s volleyball coach. “We always try to schedule tough non-conference games. We had three losses to other teams playing for state championships, and Reynolds and West Forsyth had good years as well.”
Of the top 25 teams in the MaxPreps.com 2A girls’ power ratings, North Surry played the toughest schedule of any of them. The Lady Hounds lost 44-41 at 4A finalist Northwest Guilford, and played 1A finalist Mount Airy three times. The first two times, North made the mistake of trying to run with the speedy Lady Bears, and lost by 15 and then 16 points. The third time, in the championship game of the Mount Airy Christmas Invitational on Dec. 29, the Lady Hounds made their rivals play at their tempo and won 53-50. That was the fifth win of North’s current winning streak.
North’s other two losses, to R.J. Reynolds and West Forsyth, occurred before Thanksgiving. Each team went on to win 24 games in the 4A ranks this winter.
The computer system used by MaxPreps likes North Surry’s credentials much more than the voters do, and rates the Lady Hounds as the second-best 2A team, with 29-2 Clinton rated sixth.
Clinton is led by a 5’9” senior guard named Mikayla Boykin, who has already signed to play collegiately for Duke. Boykin is a scoring machine who averages 37.6 points and 13.9 rebounds per night, not to mention 5.7 steals and 6.6 assists. She was so dominant this season that she had three quadruple-doubles during the course of the year.
Boykin is the main focus of any team trying to beat the Lady Horses, but Slate said that it was wrong to assume that Clinton was a one-woman team.
“She is a good player,” he said. “But they’re also a good team; otherwise, they wouldn’t be playing for a state championship.”
The Four-County Conference champions do have two other players who average in double figures, those being 5’9” junior Alex Canady (18.6) and 5’8” sophomore Ashlyn Williams (11.8). Both players also have healthy rebounding, assist and steals numbers.
The Lady Horses play an up-tempo style and average nearly 77.9 points, 39 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game, while the Greyhounds post 54.8 points, 27.9 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game. The most challenging foes that the Horses have played have been the ones who keep the scoreboard from rolling, something that could work in North Surry’s favor. Northside-Jacksonville beat them 70-59 back on Dec. 1, and 4A powerhouse Millbrook defeated Clinton 80-54 in a holiday tournament. That game, on the day after Christmas, marked the last time Clinton lost a game.
The Lady Hounds log a slightly higher field goal percentage at 45 percent to Clinton’s 44 percent.
Clinton is looking for its first state championship since 1990, while North Surry has never worn the crown in girls’ basketball.