Underclassmen step up big in girls' title win
CHAPEL HILL, Mar 17, 2013 (The Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
On a team full of seasoned veterans, it was a pair of underclassmen who shined in the first girls basketball state championship won in Lenoir County history.
Freshman Jada Faison and sophomore Lydia Rivers put Kinston on their backs on Saturday, and carried it to a 51-40 win over Canton Pisgah in the NCSHAA state 2A championship at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
Faison, who only recently transferred to the school from New York, matched a game-high 13 points and had only one turnover in 20 minutes and earned the East Region Most Outstanding Player award. Rivers also had 13 points and came one block and one rebound shy of a triple-double on her way to the game's MVP honors.
Rivers had all nine of her blocks in the first half.
"I don't know what to say. All I know is I'm proud to be with this team. I'm just happy," Faison said.
Coming from New York, one would think the atmosphere and lights displayed at the venue where one of college basketball's most elite programs calls home would be commonplace, but it wasn't.
Faison said she is used to empty gyms and benches with no enthusiasm.
You couldn't tell it by the way she performed.
"Jada came to play. She's a freshman. She don't know any better," Vikings coach Hubert Quinerly said. "That's the best thing about this situation. She don't know any better so she's just out there having fun."
"I'm used to a dead bench, no one there," Faison said. "I'm just that type of person that, when you put me on the court, I'm going to work hard. Everything that you told me, I'm going to put in work.
"I was nervous but I knew I had to come out and play my game, because I know someone had to win and I didn't want to be the one that was sad."
While Faison had her breakout game, Rivers had one of the best in girls state championship history.
NCHSAA Director of Communications Rick Strunk said no girl had reached double-figure blocks in a championship game, and the boys record is 10. Rivers had nine in the first half.
Although the 6-foot-1 sophomore didn't have any blocks in the second half, she did enough damage in the first 16 minutes to alter the way Pisgah approached the basket.
"No. 20 (Rivers) changed the way we play a little bit," Bears coach Brandon Holloway said. "I think we got a little tentative and stopped attacking the basket in the second half."
"(She) didn't have any in the second half but she disrupted so much that they were thinking about that when they drove," he said.
To Rivers, it was just another day at the office.
"It was very nerve-racking, but with God all things are possible. And with the team that we have, we just play together," she said.
"I just tried my best. It was a big game and we all had to show up. This feels amazing. I'm speechless."
The maturation of the underclassmen has Quinerly excited about things to come.
"I think our program is set up really good right now," he said. "The state championship is great, but I'll be back, ready to work on Tuesday, trying to make sure we're getting ready for next (season)."
Ryan Herman can be reached at 252-559-1073 or Ryan.Herman@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter: @KFPSports.
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