BY DARREN REESE
Sun Sports Editor
The 2012-13 season has been a roller coaster ride for the North Greene girls’ basketball team.
You wouldn’t know it by talking to the players on the team, though.
Last Tuesday, the Lady Huskies won at cross-county rival South Greene for what NGHS head coach James Buchanan said was the first time in his 12-year tenure.
After the game, Buchanan walked into the locker room expecting a celebratory scene. Instead, he found his team sitting there showing hardly any emotion.
“I didn’t know how to take that,” Buchanan laughed. “That’s the happiest I’ve been after a game in a long time. I was excited. But they were just sitting there.”
“I never know whether they are happy, depressed, mad, sad. But they are good kids. They are humble. They don’t brag, they don’t want extra attention. They just work hard and keep things in perspective.”
That personality came in handy back in late December as North Greene saw senior forward Laiken Morrow go down with an ankle injury and proceeded to lose six of its next eight games.
During that stretch, the Lady Huskies (24-8 overall) dropped their first three District 1-A games, including a head-scratching 57-44 loss to Unaka.
Morrow returned for games against Cloudland and Hampton the first two weeks of January, but the team chemistry took a while to come back and North Greene lost both.
“Not only did we lose the games where we didn’t have Laiken, but some of those other games were her first back and we just couldn’t find our rhythm right away,” Buchanan explained.
“She wasn’t shooting well off her injury, and there were some games we just didn’t play good. I think getting everybody healthy was the biggest key for us.”
North Greene avenged the loss to Unaka with a 49-40 win at home on January 18. Since then, the Lady Huskies have won 10 of their last 11, including wins over Hampton and Cloudland in the district tournament.
The lone loss during that stretch was a 49-32 beating at Hampton on Feb. 5. Junior guard Mendy McNeese believes that loss was key in helping the team get refocused in time for the postseason.
“After that last loss to Hampton, we became a new team,” McNeese said. “That loss really hurt, and then the next day at practice nobody hardly said a word.”
“If not for that loss, I don’t think we would be the team we are today.”
The team North Greene is now is pretty good.
The Lady Huskies came out with a sense of purpose in the district semifinals against Hampton Saturday. They quickly jumped out to a double-digit lead and rolled to a 46-27 victory.
In the championship game, North Greene trailed by eight points in the fourth quarter before rallying to force overtime en route to a 60-53 win.
“Those two wins make me extremely proud, but for different reasons,” Buchanan said. “The game against Hampton, they came out disciplined and focused. They carried out our game plan and that was the result.”
“Against Cloudland, I was proud of them because they had their backs against the wall and didn’t quit.”
North Greene now is set to host Clinch tonight in the first round of the Region 1-A tournament. The Lady Wildcats didn’t win a District 2-A game the entire season.
The Lady Huskies are trying to make it back to the state tournament after a one-year absence.
In 2010-11, they won eight straight postseason games to reach the Class A state championship, where they lost to Wayne County, 63-58.
North Greene was primed for another solid season last year, but McNeese went down with a season-ending injury early and the Lady Huskies went on to finish with a 19-15 record, including a loss to Cloudland in the region semifinals.
This year’s region tournament may be one of the most competitive in the state as North Greene, Cloudland, Hampton and Cosby have all be ranked in the state at one point or another this year.
In the final regular season AP Class A state poll, Cosby was fifth, while North Greene and Cloudland were tied for ninth.
Hampton was the first team in the “others receiving votes” list.
Two of those four teams are going to see their seasons come to an end in the region semifinals.
The winner of the North Greene/Clinch game will play the winner of Hampton/Hancock County Monday at Chuckey-Doak Middle School.
On the other side of the bracket, the winner of Cosby/Unaka plays the winner of Washburn/Cloudland.
“You look at the semifinals, and those could be some tough matchups,” Buchanan said. “Right now we are just focusing on Clinch, but there are gonna be two good basketball teams who will see their season end a lot sooner than they had hoped.”
And so the Lady Huskies will continue with their business-like approach – staying in the moment, not getting too high or too low emotionally, and focusing on the task at hand.
“We’re never too serious, but we know when its time to get focused,” McNeese said.