Shelby girls basketball program in uncharted territory in state championship game

By Richard Walker

Shelby’s Maraja Pass receiving school’s first-ever Western N.C. girls basketball championship plaque

Few know more about Shelby High’s winning boys basketball tradition than former Golden Lions’ standout point guard Scooter Lawrence.

Now in his second season as Shelby’s girls basketball coach, Lawrence is helping that program to uncharted territory in their pursuit of glory.

When the unbeaten Golden Lions (16-0) meets Farmville Central (14-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Providence Grove High School, it’ll be the school’s first girls basketball state championship game in history.

“It’s been surreal,” Lawrence said of this year’s playoff run. “For me, it’s just been awesome.”

A longtime Shelby coach who was Crest’s head boys basketball coach in the 2018-19 season, Lawrence become the Golden Lions head coach before the 2019-20 season and the Golden Lions have won 41 of 43 games since then.

This season, a youthful group that starts one senior, one junior and three sophomores has blitzed one opponent after another this season. Only in road playoffs – 48-46 at Salisbury and 49-44 at West Stokes – has Shelby been pushed as the other 14 wins have come by 20 or more points.

“We’re definitely young,” Lawrence said. “I just try to tell the girls to stay in the moment and stay calm.”

Sophomores Maraja Pass (21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists) and Ally Hollifield (20.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists) are the top scorers with considerable support from junior Kate Hollifield (13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists), sophomre Brooke Hartgrove (6.3 points, 2.5 rebounds) and senior Deja Griffin (4.7 points, 1.4 rebounds).

“It’s been overwhelming the support we’ve gotten,” Lawrence said. “Not a lot of people will get to go but a lot of people have been really supportive.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, Shelby receives only 75 tickets for fans for Saturday’s championship game.

“We’re happy with what we’ve accomplished,” Lawrence said. “But we know we have bigger fish to fry. We know what’s ahead of us. We’ve got one game to go and finishing undefeated with a state championship will solidify the greatness of these girls.”