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After being denied by four-time state champion Wilson Christian several times in recent years, a senior-heavy Faith Christian team finally had a convincing 45-27 win over Wilson in the NCCSA 2-A state title game. 

Faith moves Wilson aside, wins title

RAMSEUR — As a reminder as to what the end goal was for the Faith Christian varsity girls basketball team this season, they had the phrase “all the way” printed on the sleeves of their warm up attire. After last week’s NCCSA 2-A state championship victory over Wilson Christian, all the way is exactly how far the Eagles flew.


With a group of nine seniors on the team, the Eagles soared through the conference, the region and then the state championship, claiming the title with a 45-27 victory over Wilson Christian, the four-time defending state champions.


The victory capped a 23-4 season and a three-day state tournament that saw them defeat Hilltop Christian 37-22 in the quarterfinals, Tabernacle Christian 57-38 in the state semis and then the Chargers for the championship.


“We had nine seniors, so I thought we’d do well,” said veteran coach Bruce McLanahan, who has earned eight state titles in his 30 years of coaching. “We started off pretty strong and actually had a few closer games the second time around. We didn't have to start from scratch and we did focus on man-to-man defense this year.”


The focus on a man-to-man defense may have been the key as teams who were used to firing up 3s from the perimeter could find very little room against the Eagles. That included the Chargers, who scored just five points in the first and second quarters as Faith enjoyed a 22-10 halftime lead.


“It was a great way to finish the season, especially a lot of us being seniors and we have gotten so close so many times,” said point guard Karrie Gaines, who scored 22 points in the championship win, including six 3-pointers.


“This group has played together for a long time and and we were so close just to fall short. This year before the game, we said this is our year, we have worked so hard. Wilson has had it so many times before, it’s our time. We came out with so much energy and believed in each other.”


With Karrie Gaines and her twin sister Kylie leading the backcourt, the Eagles’ outside scoring took over in the third quarter. After Wilson had closed to within 27-18, the Eagles used two 3-pointers from Karrie Gaines, one from Kylie Gaines and a bucket from Christina Davis to build a 38-18 lead late in the third quarter. The Eagles were never threatened after that.


“It felt really good because they were the team we lost to almost every year,” Kylie Gaines said of Wilson Christian. “It was really awesome. A lot of people worked really hard and gave it everything they had. It was really cool to see it at the end, especially because we were seniors.”


The Eagles have mostly used a six player rotation — Karrie Gaines, Kylie Gaines, Alexis Lynch, Davis, Madison Avelino and Lyndsey Cassell — and that may have caused trouble when Karrie Gaines picked up her second personal foul with three minutes left in the first quarter in the title game.


“I trust her,” McLanahan said. “I said ‘Karrie, you can't get another foul.’ She gets it. She is a very smart player. It was a little bit of a gamble, but we need her on the floor.”


That they did.


““I realized I had to be smarter and just said don’t do anything dumb,” she said. “They were setting a lot of screens and once I had two fouls, I needed to be more aware of where the screens were and get above them quicker. I knew I could finish without fouling. We just have to be smart.”


Other seniors on the team included Ella Joy Mathison, Caroline Scarlett and Sophie Shane.


The Eagles, who won state crowns in 2016 and 2017 and finished second in 2018 and 2022, were eliminated last year in the semifinals. They needed a little motivation when the season started, so they came up with the “all the way” motto.


“Almost every game,” Cassell said of how often the team thought of that motto. “Having that on our shirts reminded us we can do it and this is a goal we can do if we all work together as a team. If we rely on each other and play together, we can all accomplish that goal. We wanted the same goal and we ended up accomplishing it.”


That they did. All the way.