Lady Red Devils basketball, East Lincoln boys capture South Fork 2A titles; Bunker Hill girls fall in conference championship

The Newton-Conover Lady Red Devils' varsity basketball team won its 3rd-straight South Fork 2A Conference tournament on Friday, February 21 at the Tarlton Complex in Hickory. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)East Lincoln defeated conference leader Lake Norman Charter in overtime on Friday, February 21, at CVCC in the conference championship. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)The 2019-20 South Fork 2A All-Conference team. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Red Devils' senior center Chyna Cornwell (54) was named the 2020 South Fork 2A Conference Player of the Year. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Trojans' sophomores' Logan Dutka (left) and Macy Rummage (right) made the All-Conference team. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Newton-Conover varsity girls' basketball coach Sylvia White receiving the 2019-20 South Fork 2A Conference Coach of the Year award. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Red Devils' junior forward Grace Loftin (33) obtained 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and a steal in the conference championship victory over rival Maiden on Friday night. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)Maiden senior guard Cree Bass (32) earned a co-team high 15 points, along with four rebounds and a game-high six assists on Friday, February 21 at CVCC. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)Lady Red Devils' senior Chyna Cornwell (54) had 30 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks in Friday's South Fork 2A Conference championship win. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)Bunker Hill junior point guard Addie Wray (30) blowing by East Burke's Gracie Ruff (11) on Saturday, February 22. Wray earned a game-high 25 points in the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference championship loss. She aalso won the conference's Player of the Year award. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)Bunker Hill sophomore guard Olivia Ellis (23) collected eight points in Saturday's conference tournament championship against East Burke. (Photo by Brian Hendrix)
By: 
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

When the final buzzer sounded on Friday night at the Tarlton Complex, the reigning and defending South Fork 2A Conference tournament champions Newton-Conover Lady Red Devils kept its hold of the title.

Against great competition from No. 3-seeded Maiden (14-13), the Lady Red Devils overcame a collapse on the defensive end in the second half to bring home its third-straight conference tournament championship in a 62-50 win.

Newton-Conover (24-2) kicked things off like usual against its hated rival as it led the Lady Blue Devils, 15-5, after one. The workhorse Chyna Cornwell led the charge in the frame with 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks. While, Maiden junior guard Lainee Hentschel led her team with three points – this unknowingly being the start of a trend for her from beyond the arc.

When the second quarter arrived, so do the offensive firepower of Lady Red Devils' junior forward Grace Loftin. Cornwell had already been killing it and Loftin took it upon herself to add to the scoring column. She finished the first half with nine points – including a three – five boards (three offensive), two assists and a steal.

As for Cornwell, she earned her way to the free-throw line time and time again in this one. Unfortunately, she did leave a few points off of the board. She finished the game 6-of-18 from the charity stripe. Heading into halftime, she obtained 14 points and 10 rebounds (four offensive) to go along with her two blocks from the first quarter.

Coming out of the break, though, the Lady Blue Devils went into another gear sparked by its hot three-point shooting. It seemed as if Newton-Conover couldn't contain the deep ball and Maiden scored 13 points in the frame compared to the Lady Red Devils' 14, trailing 43-32.

The tandem of Hentschel and senior guard Cree Bass pushed the pace for the Lady Blue Devils' run in the second half. Hentschel knocked down a three-ball in the third quarter and a pair of threes in the fourth. She finished with a game-high six three-pointers, along with five rebounds.

Bass made some beautiful passes to her teammates as she garnered a game-high six assists. She also got in on the three-point shooting frenzy as she connected on a trio of threes in the final period to finish with 15 points, four rebounds and the aforementioned six assists. Senior guard Gracie Arrowood contributed nicely in the final two frames, as well, as she finished with eight points (including a pair of threes), four rebounds and four dimes.

Senior Maggie Sigmon earned five points (including a three), five rebounds, two assists, one block and a steal in the losing effort. Marley Mingus scored two points in addition to a rebound and an assist while Maggie Andrews obtained five points – including the team's only free-throw – and a steal.

Nevertheless, the Lady Red Devils kept its composure to finish out the conference with its second consecutive undefeated regular-season championship and conference tournament title.

In the clutch moments at the foul line in the fourth quarter, Newton-Conover freshman point guard Cassidy Geddes stepped up and connected on all four of her attempts. Geddes also finished with four rebounds, three assists, a game-high three steals and even two blocks.

Cornwell garnered 30 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks in the victory. Post-game, she was named the South Fork 2A Conference Player of the Year, as well as an All-Conference selection along with teammates Loftin, Aaliah Walton and Geddes. Walton obtained six points, two rebounds, one assist and a steal in the championship win. Newton-Conover head coach Sylvia White was named Coach of the Year.

Following the weekend of conference tournament championships, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association came out with the state playoff brackets on Sunday. The Lady Red Devils enter as the 2A West No. 3 seed against No. 30 East Rutherford on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Lady Blue Devils enter as the No. 28 seed on the road against No. 5 Mountain Heritage on Tuesday.

GIRLS

The Bandys Lady Trojans' varsity basketball team may have been upset by Maiden in the South Fork 2A Conference tournament semifinals last Wednesday, but it still earned the No. 14-seed in the 2020 NCHSAA 2A State Playoffs, as announced on Sunday.

The Lady Trojans (19-6) will once again host in the first round. In the 2019 state playoffs, it fell as a 15-seed to No. 18 Madison, 68-55. This year, it will go head-to-head with No. 19-seed Pigsah (17-9) on Tuesday night inside of Bost-Matheson Gym at 6 p.m.

On Friday night – following the conference championship – Bandys' sophomores Macy Rummage and Logan Dutka were named to the All-Conference team. Heading into the state playoffs, Dutka leads the team with 12.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block per game. While, Rummage followed up with 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and a team-high 3.5 steals per game.

Junior Laci Paul and senior Toni Laney also contributed this season for Bandys' success. Paul earned 8.5 points, a team-high 8.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. Laney collected 7.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

As far as the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference tournament championship, the Bunker Hill Lady Bears went up against East Burke at East Burke High School on Saturday afternoon. The Lady Bears entered the championship on an 8-game win streak but had it snapped by a red-hot Lady Cavaliers' team.

The No. 1-seeded Lady Cavs improved to 24-3 and Ashlyn Stilwell led the charge with 24 points in the 58-40 win. Teammates Riley Haas and Graleigh Hildebran also played important roles in the victory as the pair finished with 16 and 10 points apiece. All three made the Northwestern Foothills 2A All-Tournament team.

Although it wasn't in the cards for the Lady Bears in this year's conference tournament, junior guard Addie Wray put up a game-high 25 points. Olivia Ellis chimed in with eight points in the loss for Bunker Hill. Wray was crowned the 2019-20 conference Player of the Year and her teammate Camryn Bryant also made the All-Conference team.

Bunker Hill (20-7) will enter the 2A State Playoffs as the No. 10 seed against the No. 23-seeded East Lincoln Lady Mustangs (16-10) who are led by Brianna Tadlock.

BOYS

EAST LINCOLN 51, LAKE NORMAN CHARTER 49 OT

Senior, Justin Kuthan, made a follow shot off a missed shot as time expired to give the Mustangs a dramatic victory over the Knights by a score of 51-49 in overtime in the South Fork 2A Conference Tournament Championship played Friday night at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory.

Kuthan led the Mustangs with a double-double 18 points and 17 rebounds, followed by sophomore, Evan Montanari, who had 10 points.

The Knights had two players in double figures led by sophomore, Donovan Atwell, who had 18 points and junior, Cal Reed, who had 12 points.

East Lincoln (12-2, 23-4): Jeremiah Jones 4, Evan Montanari 10, Matthew McCowan 6, Myles Adams 8, Drew Bean 5, Justin Kuthan 18, Ethan Staples 0, Logan Craig 0, Petey Nichols 0, Nyckolas Clarke 0

Lake Norman Charter (13-1, 20-6): Cal Reed 12, Alec Edens 6, Jackson Porter 5, Donovan Atwell 20, Avery Scott 0, Oliver O’Brien 6, Myles Bell 0

Of Note: East Lincoln’s Justin Kuthan was named the South Fork 2A Player of the Year and All-Conference along with senior, Myles Adams, and sophomore, Evan Montanari. East Lincoln has won 10 games in a row and 17 of their last 18 games.

SOUTH FORK 2A ALL-CONFERENCE AWARDS:

GIRLS

Bandys: Macy Rummage and Logan Dutka

East Lincoln: Brianna Tadlock

Lake Norman Charter: Jillian Villanti

Maiden: Gracie Arrowood and Cree Bass

Newton-Conover: Chyna Cornwell, Grace Loftin, Aaliah Walton and Cassidy Geddes

North Lincoln: Rachel Seagle and Aly Wadkowsky

POTY: Chyna Cornwell, Newton-Conover

COTY: Sylvia White, Newton-Conover

BOYS

Bandys: Spencer Ledford

East Lincoln: Justin Kuthan, Myles Adams and Evan Montanari

Lake Norman Charter: Donovan Atwell, Cal Reed and Jackson Porter

Lincolnton: Davis Grooms

Newton-Conover: Mathew Martinez and Maverick Davis

North Lincoln: Cole Seagle and Jack Carter

POTY: Justin Kuthan, East Lincoln

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