WINSTON-SALEM — High Point Christian missed seven of its first eight shots from the field, while Concord Academy made its first seven as the Cougars lost to the Eagles 64-43 in NCISAA Class 3-A girls basketball state finals on Saturday at the Calvary Day Christian Activity Center.
When No. 1 seed Concord (24-7) jumped to a 16-3 lead, 6-foot forward Zoey Ward, who had averaged 16.5 points per game, put up nine of them, all from either the paint or the free-throw line.
“We were shocked,” said Concord coach Bill Middlebrooks. “The first time we played them, they played zone (on defense) the whole time, but at the beginning of this game, I saw they went man-to-man.
“And so I think with our team, we have a couple of post players who are pretty good. We just took advantage of it and went inside to Zoey Ward and Jada Steele a couple of times and it kind of opened it up for us.”
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Ward, a senior Fairleigh Dickinson signee, had a game-high 26 points.
Since moving from Class 2A to 3A, Concord has reached the finals four of past five seasons. This is its first state championship victory since 2021, the year it defeated High Point Christian 65-58 in the semifinals.
Senior Nadiya Hairston led the No. 2 seed Cougars (20-9) with 17 points, while junior Angel Walker scored 13.
The Eagles contained Cougars’ leading scorer, Kylie Torrence, to just two first quarter points as it trailed 27-9 at that point. Torrence, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, finished with 10, but left the game early.
Before Coach Brittany Drew’s arrival in the fall of 2019, the Cougars had gone 10-59 in its previous four seasons. The team improved its NCISAA 3A playoff progress under Drew, a former Guilford College all-conference player, with a quarterfinals finish in the first season, followed by the semifinals defeat against High Point Christian.
Last season, it lost its first-ever state finals appearance, 48-44 to No. 1 seed Asheville Christian in overtime.
“I guess the greatest reward is seeing them progress in their own personal goals, on and off the court,” Drew said. “We always set a goal of trying to have a longer playoffs run and we do that and they just work hard. The buy-in process isn’t easy and they do that, so I’m just proud of our effort.
“It seems like we keep falling short, but at the same time, the fact that we’ve gotten here, it’s our greatest accomplishment, so I’m just proud that we continue to keep fighting.”
The Cougars entered the game having won their previous two playoff games, 72-38 and 60-38, over No. 7 seed Arendell Parrott and No. 3 seed John Paul II by an average of 28 points. Based on seed, it received a bye in the tournament’s first two rounds.
Concord Academy reached the finals with playoff victories over No. 8 Forsyth Country Day and No. 4 seed Asheville Christian, 75-31 and 61-40, respectively. The Eagles also had a bye for the first two rounds, before its quarterfinals matchup.