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SouthWest Edgecombe girls win first conference title since '07

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SouthWest Edgecombe Girls Basketball.

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By Ethan Joyce
Sports Writer

Saturday, February 11, 2017

PINETOPS — The SouthWest Edgecombe gym is full of banners. A good portion belong to the girls’ basketball program.

They denote state titles and runner-up years. All but one sports vibrant versions of the school’s colors. That outlier looks old, faded and dusty. And it’s one this year’s current team wanted to pull down.

In order to do it, the Cougars just needed to win against Wilson Beddingfield on Friday. And in order to win, they needed to dance.

SouthWest Edgecombe (16-4, 8-2 Eastern Plains) used its energy in the first half to jump out to an early lead, holding off the Bruins for a 56-41 victory. The win, paired with Farmville Central’s loss to North Pitt, gave the Cougars their first conference title in 10 years. Farmville Central and the Cougars were tied for first entering Friday’s contests.

That outdated banner, which features the team’s conference-winning seasons, was one that SouthWest Edgecombe coach Sandra Langley pointed to all year. The last conference title, won in 2007, meant that banner had been untouched since this year’s seniors were 7- and 8-year-olds.

“Look how dusty that thing is,” Langley said with a smirk. “Now we can get a new one.

“We talked about it before the game, how that first year, they (the seniors) had five wins and didn’t make the playoffs . . . They wanted it (the banner) to come down. We are just going to get a new one.”

The game started about an hour behind schedule due to the boys’ junior varsity game. It didn’t seem to bother the girls, though. As the team stood on each side of the locker room entrances, the teammates danced among themselves. As the layup lines formed, the Cougars grooved to the mixes that blast out of the speakers. They were laughing and smiling with one another.

Senior guard and captain Tia Farmer said the dancing is part of the team’s routine.

“That is our goofball team,” Farmer said. “That is us, and we have always been an energetic team.

“If we warm up flat, we start our game flat. When we warm up and play around as a team — a team that talks and communicates — that is exactly how we start.”

That sparked SouthWest Edgecombe in the first half. Bailey Davis curled around a screen for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to start the game. After a steal and score from Teliyah Owens, Davis hit another. The Cougars pushed out to a 32-15 lead after the first two quarters, and their defense forced 14 first-half turnovers.

Their high-volume shooting failed them in the third quarter, though. SouthWest Edgecombe went 4 for 15 from the field during that quarter, and it let the Bruins creep back into the game. Wilson Beddingfield guard Jayla Bullock powered the Bruins offense, scoring 11 of her 23 points. The Bruins pulled within nine before the start of the fourth.

“I told them they were going to shoot themselves out of the games,” Langley said. “We just weren’t making shots.

“We didn’t need to rush shots, and we didn’t need to force things.”

To close out, SouthWest Edgecombe had to abandon its fast-paced offense to bring it up slowly and kill the clock. By moving the ball around, the Cougars were able to find better shots and restitch some of the cushion they built earlier.

That ability to change styles, Farmer said, gave her and her teammates confidence.

“Being able to adjust, and just start working, it helped us a lot,” Farmer said. “I could see some of my teammates heads dropping just a little bit and loafing a little bit.

“As a point guard, you can’t let your team get like that.”

Farmville and North Pitt’s game was over before SouthWest Edgecombe went into the locker room for halftime. The girls didn’t find out that they claimed a conference title outright until the game was over.

Farmer said they thought about that banner first thing. The girls want it to come down immediately. They wouldn’t mind putting another banner up there as well. In order to do that, it will take the cohesiveness Farmer preaches. And it will take more dancing, too.

“All we screamed (in the locker room) was ‘conference champs, conference champs,” Farmer said. “For us to be the year that gets this far — last year we were close, and we weren’t a bad team. This year, we are a great team.

“. . . It feels good to not have to share your conference championship.”

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