A dominating year thus far for female athletes

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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Chinese Horoscope 2024 predicts a prosperous year for the dragon, representing authority, prosperity, and good fortune.

I’ve got nothing against dragons, but in my humble opinion 2024 perhaps should be the Year of Women athletes.

Less than two months into 2024, we’ve witnessed NCAA scoring and rebounding records shattered by women.

On Feb. 15, Caitlin Clark of the University of Iowa became the NCAA Division I women’s career scoring leader, surpassing Kelsey Plum, during a 106–89 win over Michigan. Clark finished the game with a career-high 49 points, giving her 3,569 career points, which broke Plum’s record set while she starred at the University of Washington.

Just how big of a deal was Clark’s milestone? Her record-breaking game (played on her home court) attracted sell-out crowd (15,000) who paid an average ticket price of $254 to attend. That ticket price was roughly 25 times more than it would have cost to attend the NBA’s Bucks vs. Grizzlies game held on the same night.

Ironically, on the same night of Clark making history, so did a woman from a lesser known school.

Lauryn Taylor, a center with Francis Marion (a NCAA Division II school located near Florence, SC) grabbed 44 rebounds against North Greenville, an all-time record for all divisions.

According to media reports, Taylor hauled in 30 defensive rebounds and 14 offensive rebounds to shatter the previous record of 40 rebounds in a single game, set in 1983 by Deborah Temple of Delta State. She added a career-high 34 points in an 85-62 win.

Avid sports fans will know that Francis Marion University has a connection locally. Athletically, the school is a member of Conference Carolinas. Our own Chowan University is a member of that same conference. To date, Chowan and Francis Marion have split their two games this season, both winning on their home floor (Chowan, 68-62, back on Dec. 2; Francis Marion, 89-73 on Jan. 30). Taylor hauled down 13 and 19 rebounds respectively in those two games.

While collegiate basketball may attract the most attention nationally, there are high school players that excel as well. Several of those are right here in the Roanoke-Chowan area, allowing me to witness their outstanding efforts this season.

After a slow start to their season, Hertford County’s Lady Bears began to put things together after the Christmas holiday break.

Losers of five of their first seven games, HCHS has recovered to finish the regular season at 17-7 overall and tied for second place in the Northeastern Coastal Conference.

A big part of that recovery has been the play of Jaliyah Mitchell, who finished second in the conference in scoring (20.3 points per game). Mitchell has had plenty of help as Brooklynn White and Adarielle Townsell have averaged 12.2 and 8.7 ppg respectively.

The Lady Bears enter this week’s conference tournament as the #2 seed and have already locked up a state playoff berth.

Just across the Chowan River, the Gates County girls have posted one of their best records in years.

The Lady Barons finished the regular season at 18-4 overall and 8-2 (second place) in the Four Rivers Conference.

What has made Gates County such a good team during the 2023-24 season is its offensive balance. London Barber is the team’s top scorer (averaging 13.2 points per game). Semiyah Saunders (at 9.1 ppg) is very capable of scoring double digits on most any night and is a very explosive player. Point guard Kyndall Banks runs the offense, but can also score (8.6 ppg). And then there’s Semayia Cross (6.5 ppg), Zebriya Woodley (5.0 ppg), and Zariah Rogers (4.3 ppg) that if an opponent ignores defensively, they can “burn” you.

Like Hertford County, the Gates girls have already secured a spot in the state tournament.

While it’s been a below average year for the Bertie girls (10-12 overall this season), no one can overlook the legacy of that program. Rakiyah Peele leads the team, and is second in the conference, in scoring at 17.1 points per game. They may prove as a “sleeper” team in the conference tournament.

At the private school level in the Roanoke-Chowan area, two teams really stood out during the 2023-24 season.

Ridgecroft’s Lady Rams “ran the table”, posting a perfect 20-0 record en route to claiming both the regular season and tournament titles in the Tarheel Independent Conference.

Three of their players enjoyed immense success this season: Makenzie Slaughter (13.6 points per game), her younger sister Hannah Slaughter (12.3 ppg), and Kate Chamblee (8.8 ppg).

Makenzie, the lone senior of that group, put on a gritty performance in the tournament championship game, scrapping for each and every loose ball, and playing “shut-down” defense in a contest that saw her lead the way with 14 points, six assists, and three steals. She was named as the Tournament MVP as well as the conference’s Player of the Year.

Meanwhile over at Ahoskie Christian School, the Lady Warriors posted a 30-1 overall record, with their only loss coming against Ridgecroft way back in November. After that setback, the Lady Warriors reeled off 28 consecutive victories, including a sweep of this past weekend’s Mid-Atlantic Christian Athletic Association’s tournament that saw ACS crowned as the champions.

Ahoskie Christian features Morgan Wadsworth, a senior that shattered the 2,000-point career scoring mark, setting a school record in the process.

Wadsworth, who can also rebound, dish out assists, and is a rugged defender, was All-Conference (the leading vote getter in the MACAA for that honor) and also named as the Tournament MVP.

She has signed a scholarship to attend Mt. Olive University where she will continue her basketball career.

Trust me when I say that our little corner of the state doesn’t necessarily hang its proverbial hat only on men’s athletics. We got quite a few women that can compete at a high level of competition! The current records of Caitlin Clark and Lauryn Taylor just be broken in the very near future by one of our local area’s outstanding female athletes!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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