IREDELL – After capturing their third consecutive District 25-1A championship, the Iredell Lady Dragon girls basketball team wants to take the next step and avenge last season’s loss in the playoffs.
Drawing a Bi-District playoff bye as the district champion, Iredell (13-1 in district, 21-10 overall) opens the postseason against the 20th-ranked Chireno Lady Owls (25-10) at 6 p.m. Friday in Buffalo. Chireno comes into the game riding the momentum of a dominating 64-21 victory over Coolidge Tuesday in a Class 1A Bi-District matchup.
Last season, the Lady Owls knocked Iredell out of the playoffs with a 46-28 win in the Area playoff round.
“Our upcoming playoff opponent Chireno is very well-coached team, and they should be great playoff matchup,” Iredell girls basketball head coach Jarred Shaffer said. “The girls have been putting in the time to get prepared for this playoff run, and they are eager to get on the floor.”
Although the Lady Dragons posted a dominating district record, not all of the wins came easy. And in the first round of district, Blum gave Iredell a wake-up call as the Lady Bobcats walked away with a shocking 35-31 overtime win.
“District play was a battle in itself,” Shaffer said. “During the first round of district, we dropped a tough game to very talented and athletic Blum team, so we knew at that point it was time to refocus, get back to the drawing board and get back to where we need to be.”
That’s exactly what the Lady Dragons did, and they have not lost since. Iredell secured the outright district title by avenging their only district loss of the season, edging Blum, 35-33, Feb. 7.
“Throughout the season, our team motto has been ‘It’s not about ME, it’s about US,’ and we have driven home the WE over ME mentality,” Shaffer said. “During this game, the girls truly bought into the mentality and motto, and we came away with a well-deserved win and district championship.”
Shaffer realized this team could be something special in the third game of the season when the Lady Dragons came from behind in the fourth quarter to knock off a strong Class 3A Bruceville-Eddy squad, 57-50. Junior Ali Guereca, the centerpiece to the rally, scored 14 of her season high 29 points in the final period, while junior guard Emily Wellborn handled the ball and orchestrated the attack.
“I was very proud with the way the girls responded to the circumstances and took control of the game,” Shaffer said. “The girls battled through a very tough preseason schedule, playing against mostly Class 2A-4A opponents. During that stretch, there was definitely a ton of growth within the team as the girls started figure out the new system and take on their roles.”
Throughout this season, juniors Guereca, Wellborn and Sage Potter have provided leadership on and off the floor, and Shaffer credits the trio for being “a huge reason for our success thus far.”
“Coming in to this season, I was very eager to see what this group of girls could accomplish down the stretch,” Shaffer said. “We had a very successful season last year and returned all but one player. I am blessed and honored to coach these girls. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Iredell Lady Dragons basketball.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS