LENOIR – The McDowell Lady Titans have put themselves in sole possession of second place in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference standings with one game to go.
Tuesday night, the Lady Titans took care of business, using a collective team effort on the road to beat the West Caldwell Lady Warriors 65-43, reclaiming sole possession of second.
McDowell (16-7 overall, 10-3 NWC) has won three straight including Tuesday’s victory, and five of the last six contests. The Lady Titans host Freedom, who has already clinched the conference championship, Friday night.
The Lady Titans, who have clinched their 35th consecutive State 4A Playoff berth, led wire-to-wire against West Caldwell (7-14, 3-10), scoring the first eight points of the game in the first two minutes of play.
After that initial surge, the Lady Warriors trimmed the margin back to within one possession on four different occasions through two-and-a-half quarters.
McDowell was ahead by just a point, 33-32, at the 4:17 mark in the third. But from there the Lady Titans pulled away, outscoring West 32-11 the final 12 minutes of game time.
McDowell scored the last 12 points of the third starting with a pair of transition baskets by Dezi Williams, one coming off a rebound and drive with 3:45 left in the third, and the second on a half-court steal and old fashioned three-point play at the 3:22 mark, putting the Lady Titans ahead 38-32.
That run continued as Alana Stephenson hit a deep 3-pointer off a Williams assist. Makenna Parkins added a pair of free throws and Daisy Rice had a score off a Silese Carson assist to end the third, giving McDowell its largest advantage at the time at 45-32.
The lead never got any smaller than a dozen points the rest of the night.
“I thought we did a good job especially in the second half on the defensive end,” said McDowell head coach Jennifer Kinninger. “Early in the game they were breaking us down on the dribble and getting chances at the foul line. Second half we came out with a purpose, found good looks on the offensive side but defensively did a better job at preventing them from getting those good looks that were coming earlier.
“I am really proud of the overall team effort and how they came out and performed especially in the second half.”
All nine McDowell players who dressed on Tuesday scored in the game with Williams (3 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) leading the way with 21 points, 11 of those coming in the first quarter. Williams’ production slowed down some late in the half after picking up her second and third fouls.
Parkins (15 rebounds) added 16 points and Makaylah Chandler (6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists) had 11 points to give three Lady Titans double figures.
“Dezi came out very strong at the start of the game which is always good to see,” said Kinninger. “Some of that slowed down later and having two fouls may have been a part of that but we had others to step up and do some good things for us.”
Rice added six points off the bench. Candace Cooper and Stephenson (3 assists) had three points each. Silese Carson and Tayla Wood scored two points each and Naliyah Boyce (6 rebounds) finished with one point.
West Caldwell guards Eboni Johnson (16 points) and Jaleah Battle (12 points) combined for nearly two-thirds of the Lady Warriors’ scoring. Both players eventually exited due to foul trouble late in the second half.
McDowell finishes up regular-season play on Friday hosting rival Freedom on senior night.
“Our girls are looking forward to having our rival at home on senior night for obvious reasons, but it’s an important game for where we are in the league going into the postseason,” said Kinninger.
A McDowell win on Friday would give the Lady Titans sole possession of second place and the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Northwestern Conference tournament. A loss, plus wins by Watauga and Hickory, would result in a three-way tie. In that case, a drawing would then determine seeding for all three teams next week.