Trojan Title: Potter, Carpenter guide Trojans in second half, Bandys wins CVAC tournament

It took the Trojans three times, but they finally got the monkey off of their back.

Tara Potter scored 15 points, including 11 in the second half, and fellow senior Katie Carpenter came up with some crucial second half plays, as Bandys overcame a four-point halftime deficit to win the CVAC tournament over Newton-Conover.

"I am just excited for these kids," said Bandys' coach Beth Queen, who won her first conference tournament. "These are the best group of kids to coach. They come in the gym, work hard and don't have any issues of the court. They all get along. I am just tickled to death that they won."

Potter, who started the season injured after a car accident, rebounded to have one of the best games of her career at Bandys and led the seniors in beating Newton-Conover for the first time.

"This is awesome for the seniors especially," Potter said. "To top our careers together and end with the biggest accomplishment in the conference is awesome. I am really proud of everyone tonight."

Having lost to the Lady Red Devils twice in the regular season and also in last year's title game, Potter believed the game was decided on one characteristic.

"We matched them physically every game," Potter said. "I knew the difference in this game was going to be mentally. We really broke through that. I knew I had to be on top of my game if we were going to win. Everyone just turned it on at the same time."

An expected fast and furious pace began the game, as 15 points were scored by both teams in the opening three minutes. N-C jumped out to the quick 10-5 lead and forced a Bandys' timeout.

"I was concerned about the pace," Queen said. "Newton-Conover plays that tough physical defense. I knew they were going to come out and pound us. We tried to prepare for them before hand and they knew what to expect."

At the end of the first half, Newton-Conover had the early momentum and the lead, 25-21, but a crucial second half adjustment was made that put Madi Story at the power forward position.

"We needed to score in the paint," Queen said. "Newton-Conover puts so much pressure on the perimeter. It is so hard to get our shots off. Madi has that scorer's mentality. That is where we felt like we've had the advantage."

The plan worked for Bandys, as Story and Potter dominated in the paint. They combined to score 11 straight points at the start of the second half. That gave the Lady Trojans their first lead of the game, 32-31, with 4:22 remaining in the third.

"I just think our whole overall game plan was what was our spark in the third quarter," Queen said. "Newton-Conover wasn't prepared for Madi on the block. She is an athlete and a scorer. She has good size. That gives us the freedom to try a lot of different things."

Potter believed Madi's move into the paint helped her overall game tremendously.

"I am the biggest post out there," Potter said. "To have a guard like Madi that can come in and do the same thing I do is really important for me. I can make other plays, like passing, instead of working in the post every play. I could also help set up plays."

Tiana Littlejohn, who led the Lady Red Devils in the first half with eight points, carried her team back into the game in the fourth quarter. She scored five straight points, including a conversion on a 3-point play.

The Trojans never relinquished the lead or the momentum though and continued to fight for baskets.

A crucial cross-court pass from Katie Carpenter to Jesse Story led to a 3-pointer that extended Bandys' lead to eight points, 50-42, with just over two minutes remaining in the game.

Carpenter also made some critical plays on defense for the Trojans. With Bandys leading and the Lady Red Devils driving with just over 1:30 remaining in the game, Carpenter once again came up with a huge play by stepping in front of Littlejohn for the charge.

"I am think is my role as a senior and captain is to make things happen," Carpenter said. "It isn't about me scoring or doing anything great. It is about the team working together."

The leadership of Potter and Carpenter, as well as a combined 24 points from Madi and Jesse Story, led Bandys to outscore Newton-Conover 38-22 in the second half on their way to a CVAC tournament title.

Potter finished with 15 points and six rebounds. Jesse Story led the Lady Trojans with 18 points. Madi Story scored 13 points, had six assists and eight rebounds.

Newton-Conover was led by Littlejohn, who had 15 points. Junior Shynese Whitener scored 12 points.

The NCHSAA playoffs begin next week and Queen believes this victory will go a long way into her team's success in the post season.

"Any time you get ready to go into the playoffs, you want to be on a high and playing some of your best basketball," Queen said. "I think that is where we are at. We are peaking at the right time."