CHARLOTTE – Ardrey Kell has been the gold standard in the So. Meck 7 conference, winning or having a share of the title for each of the past nine seasons. But Providence secured a two-game lead for the conference crown Jan. 17 by defeating the Knights, 56-40.
“Every time they started to make a run, we countered,” Providence coach Jennifer Bean said. “That’s something we’ve struggled a little bit in the past years. They’d start to make a little run and we’d panic a little bit. We didn’t do that at all. We were composed, and we played tough.”
The Panthers went on a 24-8 run to break the lead open at 40-20 early in the third quarter led by super junior Nyla McGill before cruising to victory. McGill finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, seven assists, five rebounds, five steals, a highlight-reel block, just one turnover and not a single personal foul.
The Panthers beat the Knights at Ardrey Kell last season, but this marked the first time Providence has ever beaten them at home. It also gave the Panthers a two-game lead over Ardrey Kell.
“This means that we’re the best team in the conference and we can finally put an official banner on our wall,” said McGill, who averages 15.4 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals per game. “I’m very proud of these girls. I love their energy and persistence and this team is playing well. We don’t take the losses as a loss, we take it as a learning experience.”
Providence opened the new year with out-of-conference losses to Hickory Ridge and Central Cabarrus but they’ve since reeled off convincing wins over Harding, Olympic, Ardrey Kell and West Mecklenburg.
The Panthers are getting great contributions from senior transfer Amari Davis, who scored 20 in the win over Ardrey Kell, Cameron Mulkey and sophomore Eva Butler, who has turned into the Panthers’ best defensive stopper.
“Her stat line doesn’t show how valuable she is to our team,” Bean said. “She consistently shuts down the other teams’ best players.”
As the Panthers enter their home stretch, they’re hoping for better memories than last season when, after a 20-4 start, they lost to Berry – a team that finished the season with a losing record – in the conference and state tournaments.
Now is their shot at redemption. The win over Ardrey Kell shows this team is more than capable.
“We were in a similar situation last year and struggled at the end,” Bean said. “We need to keep the foot on the gas pedal and keep doing what they’re doing.”