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ACC, SEC Women's Teams Shine, Local High Schools Bring Home State Championships And A Look Back At The Fight Of The Century

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ACC
NC State Guard Kai Crutchfield

March Madness is in full swing with women's ACC and SEC College basketball championships getting a lot of attention this weekend. On the high school front, two big state championship wins and a close loss for local teams. Langston Wertz Jr., a longtime sportswriter with the Charlotte Observer, joins WFAE's Gwendolyn Glenn with details.

Gwendolyn Glenn: Happy Monday, Langston.

Langston Wertz Jr.: Hi Gwen, how are you?

Glenn: All is well. So let's kick it off with No. 3 NC State women's win Sunday over No. 5 Louisville; 58-56 was the final score and the team's second consecutive ACC tournament win. Langston, what did you think of the game? And how far do you think they're going to go?

Wertz: I mean, it was a phenomenal game. I mean, NC State had come back in the semifinals from 10 points down. They had, you know, not as far down this time. They came back to win another thrilling game. Raina Perez hit the game-winning shot. She had missed her six previous shots. It was just the beauty of sports.

Glenn: And how far do you think they are going to go?

Wertz: Gwen, they're 20-2 and they got to start with 6-5 Alissa Cunane. She was the tournament MVP. They won their seventh tournament title. NC State could get a No. 1 seed for the tournament, they definitely could be going to the Final Four. They look like a team ready to make a run.

Glenn: Also in women's college basketball, the University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks won the SEC women's college basketball tournament against the University of Georgia Lady Bulldogs.

Wertz: South Carolina's won six out of seven tournament titles. Dawn Staley's turned that program into the new version of Tennessee the way that Pat Summit used to dominate the SEC. They look like a powerhouse going into the tournament.

Glenn: Langston, in this game with Dawn Staley, head coach of USC, and Josie Taylor, head coach of Georgia, Taylor was also named SEC coach of the year. This was the first time that two Black women met in an SEC women's title game. Here's what Dawn Staley had to say about that after her win.

Dawn Staley (recording): Black women haven't gotten a whole lot of opportunities to be head coaches in Division 1 basketball, you know, so I think what you saw gives Black women hope that one day they can represent in this way. And it's not by any means shunning any other ethnicities.

Wertz: I mean, it just shows the progress that's being made to have two Black coaches meet. You know, it's just a step forward. It's nice to see. I mean, Dawn Staley's certainly one of the best coaches in the country, and as more Black coaches have success, it opens the avenues for more Black coaches.

Glenn: And in men's college basketball, what's going on with the ACC championship coming up this week in Greensboro?

Wertz: Well, they're going to kick it off on Tuesday. I know there was a lot of consternation about whether there would or would not be an ACC Tournament. And I know some people were concerned that maybe a team might catch a COVID-tracing case and miss the big tournament. But I think the fans are really excited about having a tournament. You know, we're allowing more fans and into arenas in North Carolina. So there will be some fans at the game.

Glenn: And Duke and Wake Forest play on the first night, Tuesday. Any predictions on how far you think they're going to go and especially Duke after that loss to UNC Chapel Hill?

Wertz: Duke's going to need a really strong run during this tournament to make the NCAA (tournament). That game - Chapel Hill - did not look good on a resume, to be blown out that way. The problem is coming in and playing on the first day and having to play all the way through Saturday, it kind of takes your legs. Wake Forest plays Notre Dame to open up. I like Notre Dame in that game.

Glenn: Moving to high school basketball, to big state championship wins for local teams this weekend and then overtime loss. Fill us in on those games, starting with Ardrey Kell...

Wertz: Yeah, that was a tough loss. Ardery Kell was up about 4 points with about 30 seconds to go and he missed four free throws and they fouled on the other end. They kind of did almost everything you could do wrong in a situation like that. And you hate it for those kids because they played so hard. They put themselves in position to win. It was just a phenomenal game.

Glenn: OK, well, let's close with this Langston... (Monday) marks the 50th anniversary of "the fight of the century" at Madison Square Garden between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, a Beaufort, South Carolina, native.

Wertz: Yeah, I mean, it was the first of a trilogy that was, you know, boxing history. And when you talk about boxing, you got to talk about Ali-Frazier. It kind of stopped the world. I mean, all the celebrities came out. It was an incredible environment at Madison Square Garden. Joe Frazier knocked down Ali in the 14th. I think it was a left hook. Somehow the man got up.

It was just a great fight. It's rare when you have something that so many people look forward to, it lives up to the billing. And that fight lives up to the billing as one of the best fights of all time.

Glenn: It certainly did. And as always, thanks, Langston.

Wertz: Absolutely.

Langston Wertz Jr. is a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.