In the end, the sheer dominance of the Providence Day girls fifth consecutive N.C. Independent School Athletic Association basketball title – and ninth in 10 seasons – will be defined by two things – the season-long play and spectacular career of one of the best to ever don a Charger uniform and a stretch of 11-and-a-half minutes where the team became one.
After sprinting to a 9-0 lead against high-scoring Greensboro Day (28-3) the Chargers (27-3) suddenly found the game tied at nine later in the first quarter. From there, the game turned into one-sided domination as Providence Day took complete control to pull away with a 45-20 win.
The most defining stat – and a main reason for the win – was a stretch from the 2:30 mark in the second quarter to 7:00 in the fourth where the Chargers held Greensboro Day scoreless.
“I always have really high expectations, but while we absolutely wanted to win the game, there was no way I thought we could hold them to 20 points, not a chance,” said Charger coach Josh Springer.
“This was the best defensive performance of any team that I’ve ever coached, anywhere, any time and any place. I don’t say that just because it’s in the moment. For me, the proof is in the pudding. We were playing a team who was 28-2 and scoring in the 60s and 70s against every team that they play.”
While the Charger defense was stout, it was business as usual for star Jatarie White who wrapped up her fourth consecutive state title with a typically dominating performance.
White scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had two steals and a block while under constant defensive pressure. But in a testament to her team-first demeanor, White, a South Carolina commit and the reigning N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year who is a McDonald’s All-American this season, tied a career-high by dishing out five assists.
“She refused to let her team lose. She made a lot of plays in whatever way necessary,” Springer said. “She completely understands the importance of her teammates. I think a lot of superstars give lip service to that but at her core she wants all of her teammates to get better and knows that she needs them even despite how extremely talented she is. I think that did wonders for our confidence and helping in our team goal.”
With the offense running through White, other Chargers were able to take advantage. Freshman Janelle Bailey (12 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two assists) and senior Nikyah Morgan (11 points, season-high six rebounds) both topped double figures, but Springer had high praise for another group of contributors.
Senior point guard Emma Pixley had four points, but her contributions far exceed her point totals.
“You look at the stat sheet and she averages two to three points per game, but in the semifinals we’re in a dog fight and Emma hits 10 points – two 3-pointers and another jumper – in the third and fourth quarter to get us to (the championship),” Springer said. “She’s been so solid for us all year.”
Sophomore Celine Ives had four rebounds, two points, two steals and an assist in the championship game and drew Springer’s praise for taking a charge with the outcome decided and 45 seconds remaining in the game.
Sophomore Izzy Gallant didn’t score, but played key minutes and had some huge games down the stretch for Providence Day and junior Dani Brown scored two points but as the Chargers best on-the-ball defender was crucial in keeping Greensboro Day well under their 61-point scoring average.
“The first time we played Greensboro Day (a 61-54 Charger win on Dec. 3) I was really concerned because they get to the rim every time they wanted to,” Springer said. “Dani did a good job keeping them out of the lane, but everyone had a hand in it.”
The Charger defense was so dominant that aside from all-state performer Tamera Thorpe, who led the Bengals with 13 points, no Greensboro Day player had scored entering the fourth quarter.
“It was a total team effort, but this was hands down our best defensive performance and probably the best game we’ve played this season,” Springer said.
While all the Chargers had a hand in their best team performance it’s rightfully White who will get much of the accolades for this championship as she averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds while garnering nearly every individual accolade in her illustrious career, closing it out with her fourth state
“It feels great, knowing that a lot of people don’t even get to be a part of state championship games,” White said. “Knowing that I have four is really exciting, especially knowing I had that chance and could share it with my teammates and coaches.
“I think it was everybody had their part and that’s why we were so successful. Some people were really aggressive, but us having a great defensive game really helped us. We stuck together as a team and played hard and it was a team effort.”
But even with her immeasurable contributions to the Chargers’ success, it’s a team game for one of the biggest stars to ever suit up at Providence Day.
“There’s not much else to say about Jatarie,” Springer said. “She’s going to be sorely missed. She’s been a monster on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor, her leadership and maturity growth has been sensational and she’s going to go down as one of the best to ever wear a Providence Day jersey and we’re unbelievably proud of her.”
With his star helping to unite a team with five new players and three new starters, Springer said this championship was worth all of the hard work, the extra drills and everything that went into it.
“It’s all worth it when you get to hold the trophy on the day of the state championship game,” Springer said. “I’d like to think we were better (in the championship game) than we were in November and I think we are. I think we played our best game on the last day of the season and as a coach you can’t ask for any more than that.”
As White looked back on her season and career, she said it was all worth it in the end.
“We just blocked out the people who said we couldn’t get to where we want to be and I think that’s what I like the most about my teammates – we are really disciplined and worked together well, so that helps us,” White said.
“It’s definitely worth it. I loved holding that fourth trophy, it made me feel that I went out in my last high school game with a bang, and I’ll never forget that moment.