The chemistry came together for both the North Central Texas Academy boys and girls basketball teams, propelling them to berths in this weekend’s TAPPS Class A State Tournament in Mansfield.
Tuesday night in the state quarterfinal round, the Pioneers downed Waxahachie Prep, 68-38, at Burleson Centennial High School, and the Lady Crusaders defeated Lubbock Kingdom Prep, 47-33, at Merkel High.
It marked the 100th victory for the 17th-ranked Lady Pioneers during the four-year span since girls basketball was reinstated at the school. The Lady Pioneers (20-5) went into the state tournament this weekend on a 15-game win streak and seeking their fourth consecutive state title, facing Plainview Christian (12-5) last night.
The winner will take on either San Antonio Gateway Christian or Fredericksburg Heritage in the finals today at 11 a.m. at Timberview High School.
The NCTA boys (20-2), riding a 20-game win streak, were to face Lubbock Kingdom Prep (17-7) last night in their semifinal bracket matchup. The team that advances to the state title game will take on either San Antonio Castle Hills First Baptist or Orange Community Christian today at 3 p.m., also at Timberview.
Jodie Stevens, the third girls coach at NCTA in the past four seasons, had senior defensive standout Jenny Chen – a member of the three state championship squads and a two-year starter – to build around. Two international players – 5-11 senior Carolina Bianchi and 5-9 junior Esther Udonsi – joined this season and have dominated the offense. Two freshmen, Sophie Schultz and Emily Bloyd, have also made an impact.
“It was a little different because none of the girls had ever played together,” Stevens said. “We had a couple of girls on the bench that had played here. My two freshmen, they’ve had to fill some big shoes this year and it’s been tough, but they worked hard and improved and I’m proud of them.”
Bianchi has a team-leading scoring average of 21 points per game, while Udonsi averages 20.
“They’re just basketball players,” Stevens said of the two. “They could easily play for a Class 5A team, so they domiante. Jenny Chen contributes a lot on defense. She’s a fireball. (The freshmen) have learned really quickly.
“This team meshed very well. They started peaking at the right time, and they started playing together, and that’s what we had to have.”
In Tuesday night’s state quarterfinal playoff game, played at Merkel High School, the Lady Crusaders got 26 points, nine rebounds and four steals from Udonsi, while Bianchi added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The NCTA boys are seeking their first state championship in their first trip to the tournament. Athletic director Kirby Rasco, who is also the school’s football coach, is in his first season coaching basketball..
“We started the year basically with a bunch of new kids,” Rasco said, echoing Stevens’ thoughts on the squad meshing together. “It’s taken a while to get that chemistry.
“We knew we’d get better, we just didn’t know houw we would do with our chemistry. I think we have a good shot at doing well.”
The boys team has one player from Glen Rose and one from the D-FW Metroplex. The Crusaders also have two players from China, plus individuals from Brazil, Serbia, Mexico, Nigeria, Etheopia and Vietnam.
Stefan Rosic, who stands 6-8, leads the Pioneers with an average of 28 points. He is shooting 60 percent from the field, and also leads the team in rebounding with close to 10 per game.
“He has a nice shot and his range is incredible,” Rasco said, before adding that the players are unselfish.
“It’s not about how many points you can score,” Rasco said, adding that the international players had to get used to playing the American style of basketball, with more emphasis on defense.
“The starting five, they really get after it,” Rasco said. “It’s a dynamic group.”
Rosic and Rafael Rohlfs, the point guard, is joined in the starting five by Luis Rivas, defensive standout Elias Demissie and Marvin Ivanovic.
In their 68-38 domination of Waxahachie Prep in Tuesday’s state quarterfinal playoff game at Burleson Centennial High School, Rosic tossed in 34 points. Rivas and Ivanovic added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
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Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools
State Basketball Playoffs, Quarterfinals
NCTA 47, Lubbock Kingdom Prep 33
NCTA s(20-5) corers – Esther Udonsi 26, Carolina Bianchi 13, Jenny Chen 6, Sophie Schultz 2.
3-pointers – Udonsi 2.
Rebouding – Bianchi 13, Udonsi 9.
Assists – Udonsi 8.
Steals – Udonsi 4, Bianchi 3.
NCTA 68, Waxahachie Prep 38
NCTA scorers – Stefan Rosic 34, Luis Rivas 11, Marvin Ivanovic 10, Raphael Rohlfs 8, Josh Oma 3, Elias Demissie 2.
3-pointers – Rosic 6, Oma 1.
Rebounding – Ivanovic 8, Rosic 6, Demissie 6.
Assists – Rohlfs 11.
Steals – Rohlfs 5.