State champion: Shelby sets history with girls basketball title behind MVP Maraja Pass
By Richard Walker
Shelby High set school and Cleveland County history on Saturday.
The Golden Lions beat Farmville Central 77-62 to win the N.C. 2A state championship and give Shelby and Cleveland County the first girls basketball state title in history.
“It’s actually unbelievable,” Shelby coach Scooter Lawrence said of the accomplishment. “Our girls believed in what we could and they gave us all they had.”
Sophomore Maraja Pass led the way with 31 points and eight assists to earn most valuable player honors. Sisters Ally Hollifield and Kate Hollifield added 22 points and 16 points, respectively, as Shelby finished its season with a perfect 19-0 record. Ally Hollifield was honored with most outstanding player honors.
Shelby trailed only briefly against previously unbeaten Farmville Central (14-1) in rolling up its highest point in its five-game state playoff run.
“Any game, I try to score, help my teammates and do whatever I can do to help us win,” Pass said. “It’s a speechless feeling really.”
Previous Cleveland County teams to advance to high school state title games were Burns in 1973 and Crest in 1982; Burns finished as runner-up in the old Western N.C. High School Activities Association and Crest finished as N.C. 3A runner-up.
With Ally Hollifield hitting four first half 3-pointers, Shelby built as much as an 11-point lead at 30-19 before Farmville Central closed within 38-37 at halftime.
The Jaguars scored the first four points of the second half to take a 41-38 lead with 7:03 let in the third quarter.
But Pass led Shelby’s comeback and getaway with a 12-point third quarter that saw the Golden Lions led by as many as 13 points before taking a 61-50 advantage into the final quarter.
Farmville Central got no closer than nine in the fourth quarter.
“It feels really good,” Kate Hollifield said of the win. “I’m just excited.”
Added Ally Hollifield: “It just feels surreal.”
With a roster dominated by underclassmen, Lawrence already knows his team will have expectations heading into next season.
“We feel really good about our whole starting lineup coming back,” Lawrence said.
The 2021 Shelby roster was comprised by seniors Jasmine Gash, Deja Griffin, Nicole Camp, Jayla Littlejohn, Kate Hollifield and Yahriea Peeler, sophomores Maraja Pass, Ally Hollifield and Brooke Hartgrove and freshman Amari McMullens.
Scooter Lawrence’s assistant coaches were Carley Plentovich, Ford Lawrence, Miles Lawrence and MonDarius Black.