Cougars Win First MAC Girls Basketball Title in Eight Years

By Andrew Pearson

Asheville Citizen-Times


ASHEVILLE — Mirrah Colbert-Grant and two other veteran players for the Asheville High girls basketball team were not about to go out as anything but winners on Senior Night.

Colbert-Grant, Yvie LeBlanc and Niry Perez all made key plays in Friday’s 53-48 overtime win over visiting Erwin that gave the Cougars (10-13, 7-5) the Mountain Athletic Conference 3-A championship.

It is the first conference title in girls basketball for Asheville High since 2005 and comes for a program that went 2-21 with only one MAC win a year ago.

“From worst to first, how could you ask for more?” asked Colbert-Grant, who had 12 points for the Cougars, second only to Mikayla Ray (14 points).

“It’s shocking. It just shows you what can happen when you want something bad enough and work for it.”

Erwin (13-11, 6-6) was led by Kendra Griffin (10 points), whose 3-pointer with 31 seconds to go in regulation sent the game into overtime tied at 42.

The Warriors were the three-time defending MAC 3-A champions and without their coach Friday — Terry Gossett was at home recovering from hernia surgery earlier this week.

Perez (11 points) and LeBlanc (eight) combined for 19 points.

Perez, who had a season-high 30 points when the two teams met last month at Erwin (a 53-47 win for Asheville), iced Friday’s game from the free-throw line.

Ray’s last free throw of the evening came in overtime and gave the Cougars the lead for good.

A baseline jumper by Colbert-Grant with 43 seconds to go in the extra frame was all the cushion the team needed.

“The girls have really bought in and have done everything we’ve asked,” second-year Cougars coach Marvin Smith said. “Defense is what got us here, and they did it again tonight. And I can’t say enough about our seniors. They all came up big for us. You can’t replace senior leadership.”

Asheville’s last conference championship came during a three-year run from 2003-05 where the Cougars also returned home with three straight NCHSAA 3-A championships. Assistant coach Lauren Powell was a guard for those teams.

The MAC 3-A girls tournament begins Wednesday at Enka, a day after the boys start play.