Mustang Girls' Cinderella Run Ends
The improbable Cinderella season of the North Moore girls' basketball squad came to an end at the hands of national power Kernersville Bishop McGuinness (29-1) Saturday night in Winston-Salem.
The 79-40 final score in the West 1-A Sectional final wasn't an unexpected end to a great ride that North Moore coach Sammy McNeill described as "a fun year."
For most of the season the exploits of the Mustangs, winners of only one game in the previous two seasons, was one of the best-kept secrets in the state.
Yet North Moore ended up with the deepest run into the playoffs of any Moore County team, or of any Yadkin Valley Conference squad, on the way to a storybook 18-11 season.
Prior to Saturday's contest McNeill was questioned about his team's chances against a team with such overwhelming size, including a 6-foot-5 center. The much smaller Mustangs appeared to have no answer for that kind of size.
"They have a bunch of things we don't have an answer for," McNeill said. "It's hard to compete against people like that. But we don't care. We'll go play them. I don't believe anybody can give them a game, but we're going to try anyway."
The Cinderella girls gave it their best shot against the Goliath of girls' 1-A basketball in North Carolina. Bishop McGuinness is aptly nicknamed the Villains.
Allison Braswell scored the first basket of the game on a layup that gave North Moore a brief 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Mustang fans, that was the high point of the game for the scrappy girls from Moore County.
The Villains answered with a 15-0 run that could have broken the spirit of a lesser team. The Mustangs regrouped and outscored Bishop McGuinness 6-5 the rest of the opening period. The first quarter ended with North Moore trailing 20-8.
Brian Robinson, the McGuinness head coach, respected the intensity brought to the floor by the Mustangs. "We knew they could shoot well from the outside," Robinson said.
Robinson told his team to put the semifinal blowout of Thomasville behind them and to focus only on North Moore. It showed in the second quarter as the Villains poured it on to take a commanding 47-17 halftime lead.
The second half could have easily turned into more of the same. But the Mustangs played the Villains tighter the rest of the way.
Bishop McGuinness was held to 17 points in each of the last two quarters.
"These girls, especially those seniors," McNeill said, "have no quit in them. They go full blast and they work hard. I don't believe anybody can give them (McGuinness) a game, but we tried anyway.
"I'm just glad they got some wins under their belt before they leave here."
North Moore scored 12 in the third quarter and trailed 64-29 heading into the final period.
An 11-point fourth quarter effort resulted in the final score of 70-49 and the end of North Moore's miracle turnaround.
"We figure that they'll win the state," McNeill said. "I think everybody knew that from the get-go. I told our girls that if you're going to lose, this is the team you want to lose to. Make them beat you."
North Moore never could quite adjust to the overwhelming size and swarming pressure defense of the Villains in its attempt to get back into the game.
But McNeill felt that losing to a team with the credentials of Bishop McGuinness was nothing for his girls to hang their heads about.
"We knew this was going to happen," McNeill said. "We won one game last year, and here we are in the sectional finals against the defending state champions. We won 18 games this year and, if we had to lose, we wanted it to be to the best. I don't think there's any doubt they are the best."
Anna Defrancesco led the McGuinness scoring with 11 points. Senior Sarah Foroudi chipped in 10.
Braswell was the lone North Moore player in double figures with 10 points.
But she led a well-balanced scoring attack that saw all nine Mustangs strike one or more blows against the Villains in this real-life Cinderella story.
North Moore -- Braswell 10, McNeill 6, Monroe 2, Covington 3, Harper 4, Love 5, Chandler 1, Powers 5, Walters 4.
McGuinness -- Defrancesco 11, Foroudi 10, Lyons 9, Cox 9, Minton 8, Thompson 8, Ronan 7, Simmons 6, Sickelbaugh 6, Rembielak 5.
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