Cayla Miller picked the perfect time to have one of the biggest nights of her career.
The Newton-Conover senior guard scored 11 points — all in the second half — to guide the Lady Red Devils to the Catawba Valley 2A tournament title Friday in a 64-53 win over Bandys.
“I can’t say enough about her,” N-C coach Ike Williams said. “That’s the Cayla Miller we’ve been waiting all year for to have a big game. She really stepped up. She hit a big three, made some putbacks and made some free throws. That’s what you expect from a senior. I’m very proud of her.”
With 2:49 left in the third quarter, Miller replaced freshman Taylor Petty, who picked up her fourth foul.
Instantly providing a spark, Miller made four of her shots in a row, including a three-pointer that pushed Newton-Conover (24-3) to its biggest lead of the second half, 48-40.
“I knew that as soon as I got out there, I had to give it everything that I had,” Miller said. “I needed to give it my all and do what I need to do to help my team get the win.”
Fellow senior Kadesha Gibbs also had a memorable performance Friday.
She scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out seven assists and blocked two shots.
“Before the game, coach asked us how we were going to lead the team,” Gibbs said. “I just told him that I would give it everything that I’ve got and play with no fear. That’s what I did.”
Despite trailing 14-5 in the early moments of the game, Bandys (24-2) fought back to take a one-point lead at halftime.
Chelsey Queen connected on a three-pointer on an assist from Jesse Story to give the Lady Trojans a 29-28 advantage at the break.
“We felt pretty good at halftime,” said Bandys coach Beth Queen. “I told the kids going in that we had to score with them.”
Despite the late first-half spurt, Bandys struggled to score in the third, allowing Newton-Conover to pull back ahead by three near the end of the quarter.
Enter Cayla Miller.
Switching to a 1-3-1 zone, Miller took advantage of the Trojans attack, scoring at will.
“The kid lit it up,” Queen said of Miller’s performance. “Give her credit. We were sitting there saying ‘does this kid ever miss?’ She had the game of her life.”
Miller scored nine of the Red Devils’ 24 points in the fourth quarter.
As a team, Newton-Conover outscored the Trojans by eight points in the final stanza to secure the tournament championship.
Chelsey Queen led Bandys with 14 points and five assists, while Madi Story pitched in 13 points.
Bandys’ two losses this season were both at the hands of the Red Devils.
“Obviously, if you are going to lose, its good to lose to a good team,” Queen said. “Newton-Conover is a good ball team. They are very athletic.”
With the new bubble seeding in the NCHSAA basketball playoffs, a fourth game between Bandys and Newton-Conover is possible.
“If it happens, it happens,” Gibbs said.
Miller said she’s confident her team can win against the Trojans for a third time.
“I think the same thing will happen again,” she said.