In a grueling, physical rematch of last year’s championship game, the Harding Academy Varsity Girls basketball team managed to grind out a 27-17 win over second-seeded Davidson Academy in a game the top-seeded Lady Generals controlled from start to finish.
In the fourth and final matchup of these two teams this season, Harding wore white and was the home team on the scoreboard but was a virtual visitor playing the tournament host in its home gym.
It didn’t matter, as the Lady Generals sprinted out to a 10-4 first quarter lead on the strength of two baskets from All-Conference guard Claire Slagle and three made free-throws from three-time All-Conference forward Olivia Craig, who relentlessly took it inside against the outstanding Davidson Academy post players.
Facing key foul trouble and injury, Davidson Academy used a packed-in zone to stymie the Harding scoring attack. Still, Slagle managed another bucket, and two-time All-Conference center Ella Craig got a deuce and a free-throw to give the Lady Generals a 15-9 lead heading into the locker room at the half.
The Harding defense took over in the third quarter, as it did not allow a field goal and yielded only two made free-throws in the frame.
On offense, Ella Craig converted a nice three-point play, while Carly Frist managed to turn a steal into a bucket before any of the Lady Bears could catch her to foul her.
Add in a 1-for-2 trip to the line by Riley Jones, and the Lady Generals took a 21-11 lead into the final frame. As Davidson Academy attempted to make one final run, Harding executed its offense well and ran precious time off the clock while protecting its lead. Jones hit a key free-throw, but it was Kendall Burch who, after being held scoreless for three quarters, came alive to score a basket and hit her final two free-throw attempts to ice the game as the Lady Bears attempted in vane to foul to extend the game. In the waning seconds, Lindsey Parker drove the lane aggressively twice and converted one of two free-throw attempts.
Shortly thereafter, the final horn sounded, and the celebration began. Harding Academy (18-3, 11-1) featured balanced scoring, as no one person could get in rhythm offensively, but the true team effort shone through in the fact that six Lady Generals scored 3 or more points: Slagle (6 points), Ella Craig (6 points), Burch (4 points), Jones (4 points), Olivia Craig (3 points), Carly Frist (3 points), and Parker (1 point).
For the second time in three years, Harding landed three players on the GNAC All-Conference first team: Ella Craig, Olivia Craig and Slagle.
The Lady Generals bid farewell to six outstanding eighth graders: Kendall Burch, Ella Craig, Olivia Craig, Cate Frist, Caroline McGuire, and Claire Slagle.
Their years of service and contributions to the program have been invaluable, and it is the legacy they helped establish that next year’s team will look to build upon and continue.
They leave the program better than when they found it, and their futures and the future of the Harding Academy Lady Generals are bright.
Harding Academy Girls Win Title