The chant of “let us play, let us play” rang throughout the Smith Center in Chapel Hill following Myers Park’s 52-47 win over Southeast Raleigh in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state championship on March 14 as the Mustangs became back-to-back state champions.
Those chants were silenced on March 17 when the NCHSAA denied Myers Park’s appeal to play in the DICK’S Sporting Goods national championship at Madison Square Garden in New York City on April 4.
The NCHSAA doesn’t allow member schools to compete in games or tournaments after state championships are completed, which marks the end of the season for all teams in its membership.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson said. “We are governed by a high school body. We’re supposed to be about education. Most of my education has come through experience. It hasn’t come through a book. We had a group of educators or supposed educators turn down a team from getting an educational experience over a 40-year-old rule that should be amended.”
Nelson added nine of her 13 players have never been to New York City. She said the trip would have given them a global perspective by letting them see Ground Zero, where the World Trade Centers once stood before 9/11, and other historical sites.
Despite the disappointment from the decision, Nelson said the Mustangs don’t want to lose sight of what they’ve accomplished the last four years. Myers Park has a 119-4 (52-0 Southwestern 4A) record.
The Mustangs (29-1, 12-0) played suffocating defense in the first half, holding the Bulldogs to 14 points on 16.7-percent shooting.
Southeast Raleigh reversed the roles in the third quarter with an 8-0 scoring run, and held Myers Park scoreless for the period until senior forward Rydeiah Rogers made a layup at the 2:50 mark to extend the Mustangs lead to a five-point advantage.
Rogers battled through the frustration of three fouls in the first half to finish with a team-high 15 points and seven rebounds.
“I tried to keep it positive, and cheer my teammates on,” Rogers said. “We knew we would step up and do what we needed to do. It feels great to have two [state championships]. They’re going to impact my life a lot.”
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