DURHAM — Without a doubt, the Villains of Bishop McGuinness have history and experience on their side.
The girls, who are set to face Chatham Charter School (26-5) in the NCHSAA 1A State Championship at 5 p.m. on Saturday at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum, return their top 11 players from last season’s state championship team, the school’s tenth.
Still, Coach Brian Robinson says nothing is certain.
“You get in an arena like this, and a moment like this, and sometimes you get caught up in the atmosphere,” Robinson said at a news conference on Tuesday in Durham.
“Hopefully we can control our emotions, which I think we’ll be able to because we have girls who have been there and done that last year. But you never know with teenagers, you never know with high schoolers, how they are going react when you step into the facility on Saturday.”
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Since joining the NCHSAA for the 2005-06 season, the Villains have appeared in 10 state title games, winning them all. They won a record nine consecutive titles from 2006 to 2014 before walloping Bertie 70-42 last season.
In those wins, McGuinness has won by double digits seven times.
In the 2013 final, it trailed River Mill Academy by 11 in the fourth quarter but won 57-52. The next season, McGuinness’ Alex Putnam hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to beat Riverside High School 61-58. That shot made ESPN’s SportsCenter.
This season, Robinson has worked to avoid distractions; he said his five seniors have done a good job of leading the team through the landmines of social media.
In the playoffs, McGuinness (27-4) cruised to 54-15 and 54-14 wins over Hayesville and North Stokes, before its most competitive game against No. 7-seed Bessemer City. It trailed by two late in the fourth quarter of the Class 1-A West third round, but missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer. The Villains went on to win 62-55.
Since then, its wins have been by 14 and 11 over Cherokee and Robbinsville. The “home” game against Cherokee was played at Southwest Guilford after the visitors sent a petition to the NCHSAA to accommodate its attendance numbers. The regional final against Robbinsville was hosted by Morganton Freedom.
The Villains’ wins this season have been by an average of 35 points, with eight games won by 50-plus points and six by 11 or less.
Chatham Charter has been in five games decided by eight points or less, although one of those was a 56-51 win over No. 1 seed Falls Lake in the 1-A East Regional Final. In those games, the Knights are 3-2.
Senior point guard Tamaya Walden leads the Knights with 23.1 points per game and is second in assists with 4.6.
“They are very disciplined, they know what they are doing, they have some skill players and they are not going to make a lot of mistakes,” Robinson said of Chatham Charter. “They are going to be a team that is going to give us a great challenge on both ends of the floor, and that is a credit to their coach and to their program. Because from what I’ve seen so far, they look like a very formidable opponent.
“When you have that combination of veteran leadership, talent and skill, it is typically hard to beat.”