South Carolina Women's Basketball Team Moves On In NCAA Tournament; NC State Women Upset In Heartbreaker
The news was good and bad for women's basketball teams from the Carolinas competing in the NCAA tournament this weekend. The Charlotte Hornets are optimistic about rookie guard LaMelo Ball returning this season. And a special needs student gets to shine on the gridiron. With "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk sports is Langston Wertz Jr., a longtime sportswriter with The Charlotte Observer.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Hi, Langston.
Langston Wertz Jr.: Hey Gwen, how are you doing?
Glenn: All is well. So let's start by checking in with the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
(Recording) Ryan Ruocco: Perez through the lane... stops, flips it out. Cunane ... Two seconds ...heaves. Misses. THAT'S IT! Indiana!
Glenn: That was from the game between Indiana University and NC State, the final score was 73-70. Now, this game was a game NC State was expected to win, Langston. And even though it was a close game, where did they fall short?
Wertz: They just picked a bad day to have a bad day. Honestly, they didn't play well to start. Elissa Cunane didn't have her best game. The coach made a bad decision late. They had a timeout they called with 13 seconds left before Indiana scored. And that was their last timeout. And in women's basketball, unlike the men, you can call a timeout and advance the ball to half court.
So NC State had been down by 13 points. They close within three. So they had a chance to tie, but they didn't have the timeout to move the ball to half court. So they ended up having to have the point guard, Raina Perez, drive the length of the court. And she flipped to Cunane, who missed a shot.
Glenn: And a bit south, the University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks had a better outcome.
(Recording)Beth Mowins: What a great job of moving the ball by South Carolina.
Glenn: Tell us about that game, Langston, and sophomore Lady Gamecock guard Zia Cooke, who had the hot hand.
Wertz: Yeah, she made five out of six 3-pointers. She has 17 points and she was cooking. They beat Georgia Tech 76-65. It's the third time in four years the Gamecocks, the Lady Gamecocks, have been into the Elite Eight and they won a national title in 2017.
It would not surprise me if they won another national championship this year. They'll try to reach the Final Four on Tuesday playing Texas. I would expect them to win and advance.
Glenn: OK, so staying on the basketball court, the Charlotte Hornets rookie guard LaMelo Ball, had surgery for a wrist injury and it was thought that he was going to be out for the rest of the season. He got some good news this past week. Tell us about it.
Wertz: Yeah, I mean, GM Mitch Kupchak told the media they expect LaMelo to be reevaluated in the next four or five weeks. That would look at toward the end of April. They will still have a couple of weeks left to play, maybe three. So, you know, if LaMelo can come back and be healthy and in shape and ready to go, they can make a playoff run. But they have won three out of four games despite losing to Phoenix in overtime Sunday. So they have shown they can win without LaMelo.
Glenn: And Langston, this weekend we saw the Charlotte Thunder debut with fans at Bojangles Coliseum in the American Arena League. How did they do against the Pennsylvania Union?
Wertz: They beat them 69-12. They blew them out. Yeah, that was a big win and I think there were 1,200 fans in Bojangles. Yeah, that was a big win for them to start out.
Glenn: And former Carolina Panther Thomas Davis as a team co-owner and the Thunder's quarterback, Jalan McLendon, who's played in the NFL, has Charlotte roots as well, right?
Wertz: Yes, he does have Charlotte roots. Jalan McClendon played at West Mecklenburg High School. He went on to play at NC State. He's had cups of coffee with the Washington football team, the Ravens. He played briefly in the XFL and he was excited to play for the Thunder, which is owned by former Panthers Ted Ginn and Thomas Davis.
Glenn: Well, let's switch to high school football and Providence and Olympic High. They meet Friday. What makes this matchup one to look forward to?
Wertz: Well, these aren't teams we expect to see in the game of the week this time of the season. You know, you expect to see the Vance's and Hough's and schools like that; you know, the Myers Parks. And this is a chance for two teams that are not used to the big spotlight to get the big spotlight.
They're both battling for a conference championship. Providence has a great defense; they don't allow teams to run. Olympic has a great offense and they run on teams. So it's going to be strength versus strength in the big-time matchup on Thursday night.
This morning, @LNHS_Athletics senior Sam Jordan and his mother will be on @TodayShow to talk about his touchdown run before Friday's game with @VanceCougarsFB. Coaches from both schools arranged for Sam, who has #DownSyndrome, to have a special moment. pic.twitter.com/MsBPNdCRI7— Langston Wertz Jr. (@langstonwertzjr) March 29, 2021
Glenn: OK, and this weekend Vance High beat Lake Norman 35-16. But Langston, the story and you wrote about this wasn't who won or lost, but it was about Sam Jordan, a Down syndrome student at Lake Norman, who's been the team's manager since he was a freshman.
Wertz: Sam Jordan is a senior at Lake Norman. His mom had asked the coaches at school, "Could he be part of senior night?" And they came up with the idea to basically let him score a touchdown.
We've seen this, you know, several times over the years in high school. But you know, he lined up at the 50, they gave him the ball. The Vance guys fell down, he's running, he gets to the end zone. You can hear him on the video screaming and yelling. You can see the joy. You could feel the joy, rather, and both teams kind of mobbed him.
He was on the Today Show Monday morning. So the story went national. The video went viral on social media. It's just the power of sports to be good. It's nice to see.
Glenn: That was a heartwarming story.
Wertz: Yeah, absolutely.
Glenn: Also on the high school front, Weddington High won 3A boys soccer state championship game 2-1 against New Hanover.
Wertz: Yeah, Jacob Wells scored the game-winning goal in the first overtime. Just 18 seconds in. They have two 10-minute overtimes in high school. He basically scored the goal. They held him off and won a championship.
Glenn: And Langston, I know it happened last weekend, but we have to give a shout-out to Queens University's men's and women's swim teams for winning the Division II Swimming and Diving National Championship.
Wertz: Gwen, they're kind of used to doing this. I mean, both teams have won six in a row. I mean, that's amazing. Talk about a dynasty.
Glenn: Yeah. Yeah.
Langston Wertz Jr. is a sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.