MINT HILL, NC – The Charlotte Catholic Cougars the # 2 seed came into “The Pit” on Friday night and simply dominated the # 1 seed Lady Patriots handing them their first conference tournament loss since last years championship game. Indy earned the regular season championship and defeated CCHS twice during the campaign in close battles by a combined 5 points. However, in the title game the Lady Cougars just outplayed Indy whose performance was not their best effort of the season.
After the losses to Indy, the Cougars made game-changing adjustments and were very aggressive defensively from the tipoff. The CCHS players executed the game plan to perfection. While the two Cougar standouts Blanca Thomas and Gracynn Gough combined for 42 points.
Kate McArdle, the Cougars best defender shadowed Kamryn Kitchen all night, she never gave up an inch, and shutdown the Patriots leading scorer and “Conference Player of the Year” holding her to 7 points. When Kitchen drove down the gut, Thomas challenged her, or when Kitchen took one of her patented 3-pointers she was double teamed. Meanwhile, the other Indy players just could not step up to fill in the void to overcome a very determined Lady Cougar basketball team who seemed to be on a mission to prove they were the best when it mattered most.
Thomas was outstanding and intimidating under the boards, she showed signs of tiring throughout the game, but gutted it out. The Indy players could not drive down the middle to get her in foul trouble. Between Thomas and Gough, who is one tough gritty player clogged up the driving lanes which Indy has used to their advantage against their opponents throughout the 13-0 run in the conference until the tournament title game.
Some say defense wins championships, and in this case it certainly proved to be the difference maker. Not one Indy player scored more than 8 points, the defense created forced turnovers, and Thomas had 6 blocks at critical times during the contest. Indy outplayed the Cougars in the second period during a comeback run making the game competitive at intermission only down 24-19. However, the stingy Cougar defense and Indy’s inability to shoot with any consistent accuracy from the floor led to their demise.
As of this writing the games official statistics are not available, so we are using our own stats which are 99% accurate. On Friday night, in one huge game Charlotte Catholic was the better team. This year’s tournament MVP is Blanca Thomas who seems to play at the next level in big games. This achievement is the Lady Cougar standout’s second consecutive tournament MVP award.
Both teams will be heading to the state playoffs in the 4A West Division. Entering this game Indy was slotted as the #7 seed and CCHS #12. It would not be surprising for the final seeding to change for the state playoffs. The new rankings were announced today and Indy is now the #8 seed, and Catholic #11.
Indy is now 23-3 overall, 13-0 in the conference. CCHS is 21-6 overall, and 10-2 entering the state tournament. These teams could meet again depending how the games turnout during the playoffs. There is little doubt in my mind these two teams will be squaring off again next season for a third conference tournament title matchup. They are clearly the top two teams in their conference with key players returning next season.