Lady Rockets Finish in the Final Four - TribPapers

Lady Rockets Finish in the Final Four

Leading Lady Rocket scorer Peyton Harvey charges up the court. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Fairview – The Lady Rockets finished 27-2 and advanced to the 3A West region finals, for their deepest playoff drive since winning the 4A state title in 2000.

They won twice as many playoff rounds as a season ago. “I’m very proud of this team, and all they’ve accomplished,” head coach Amanda Whitaker said. She credits “a lot of hard work and sacrifices. They’ve done things for this program that hasn’t been done in years.”

The Lady Rockets opened their 2024 postseason by smashing West Charlotte flatter than Charlotte, the famed pregnant stingray in the Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO in Hendersonville. ACR won that opener by 59 points (76-17) on Feb. 27. Rugged center Addie Long scored a career-best 20 points.

Next, the Lady Rockets thrashed Dudley by 19 points (55-36). Dudley could not do right, in the face of the ferocious Rocket pressure defense. ACR scored 23 points in the opening quarter to seize control. Reynolds won by 20 (70-50) over St. Stephens in round three.

Overtime Thriller

Reynolds then squeezed by Ben L. Smith 63-60 in an overtime thriller. Star freshman Tait Harvey scored all nine ACR points in the extra period. “Tait hit some big shots in OT to clinch the win,” Coach Whitaker said. She credited an impressive “team win. Lots of girls stepped up when we needed them”to” — to get to overtime.

ACR lost 66-54 to West Rowan (31-1) Falcons in round four on Tuesday, March 12. The Falcons won the state finals on Friday to repeat as 3A state champions. ACR guards clicked against WRHS, as Peyton Harvey scored 16 points and Julie Janus scored 12.

Big Addie Long (42) muscles in for a shot. She helped ACR beat taller squads. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Big Addie Long (42) muscles in for a shot. She helped ACR beat taller squads. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Honors Galore

Versatile star senior Janus was chosen by MAC coaches as the league player of the year. Lady Rockets on the all-District 12 team are Janus on the first team, and Peyton Harvey on the second team. Coaches across WNC made the selections.

Reynolds returns three of its top five scorers in Peyton Harvey (13.1 PPG), Tait Harvey (12), and junior Ava Long (8.5 PPG). Seniors Janus (10.7) and Anna Wilcox (9) helped provide very balanced scoring.

Reynolds had half of the MAC’s top six scorers. They are Peyton Harvey (13), McDowell’s Kensly Stewart (12.2), Asheville’s Hayziah Dillingham (12), Tait Harvey (12), Erwin’s Teasia Hines (11), and ACR’s Janus (10.7).

Region Coach of the Year

Whitaker is the girls basketball coach of the year for District 12 in western N.C., and for the Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC). Assistant coach Danny McLaughlin led the squad, with Whitaker ailing from flu. She wore a sanitary mask, and sat behind the ACR bench to provide moral support.

Whitaker, who is 5-foot-10, snatched a Lady Rocket-record 22 rebounds in a game as a senior in 2007. The Lady Rockets were champs when she was a varsity post standout. “I made it to the regional championship my freshman year, and then won conference three years. We made several playoff runs while I was there.”

The same is true for the Lady Rockets with Whitaker as their head coach. Their record is 22-5, 22-8 and 27-2 in the past three seasons. ACR won the MAC outright twice in that span, sandwiched around a shared regular-season title with Asheville in 2022-23.

Rockets Reach Round 3

Reynolds boys (16-13; 9-4 MAC) peaked late in the year, and beat regular season co-champ T.C. Roberson (16-10; 10-2) for the MAC tourney. ACR Rockets won two playoff games. They equaled East Henderson, also a 3A school, as best among male squads in the Tribune’s primary coverage zone of Buncombe and Henderson counties.

Coach Ryan Stevens’ Rockets beat North Davidson by 22 (62-40), then turned Asheboro into ashes by a 87-53 count. Concord Central Cabarrus (33-0) eliminated ACR 96-49 in round three. The Vikings sailed to the 3A state championship, winning the title game by 28 points.

Declan Brown averaged 16 points to lead ACR in 2023-24. He finished fifth among MAC players in seasonal scoring. The top five are North Buncombe’s Trent Clark (25.5 PPG), Erwin’s Carson Wallace (24.6), Enka’s Sam Waddell (21), McDowell’s Rylan Parkins (19), and Max McDowell (17.5) of Roberson. Clark made the all-district second team. Brown, McDowell and Wallace made the district’s third team.

Such local stars are apt to play in the WNC All-Star games for seniors on Saturday, March 30 at Warren Wilson College. The girls game starts at 2 p.m., followed by the boys’ contest at about 4 p.m. The games’ sponsor,, did not publicly announced rosters as of press time.