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Published: Sunday, 2/19/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

First for Rams: Sweeney's 31 leads Rogers to CL title

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Cha'Ron Sweeney, who scored a game-high 31 points, gets a lift from Ce'Dra Evans after Rogers captured the first City League girls basketball championship in school history. Cha'Ron Sweeney, who scored a game-high 31 points, gets a lift from Ce'Dra Evans after Rogers captured the first City League girls basketball championship in school history.
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A mere 5-foot-2, Rogers junior point guard Cha'Ron Sweeney is typically the smallest player on the court.

But she often plays bigger than most anybody she faces.

That was the case in Saturday's City League girls basketball championship game at the Waite Field House as Sweeney fired in 31 points to help propel Rogers (16-4) to a 70-50 victory over Waite.

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Sophomore teammate Sasha Dailey added 20 points and four rebounds as the Rams won the first CL basketball title -- girls or boys -- since joining the league in the fall of 1967. The CL crowned its first girls champion in 1971.

"It feels real good, and I'm proud of my girls," Rams coach Lamar Smith said of the historic first. "They worked very hard all week in practice, and I'm proud of what they got done today.

"Cha'Ron stepped up big. I talked to her all week and told we were going to need a big game out of her. She can turn it on in a hurry."

When asked how big she thinks she plays, Sweeny answered: "6-4," a figure Dailey disputed.

"She plays like she's 6-8," Dailey said. "She's an amazing player."

"It feels good to be a part of the school making history," Sweeney, who made five 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds. "I was just ready. I've been ready since my first game of the year, and you've just got to keep pushing."

How does she overcome her lack of stature?

"I've got heart," Sweeney said. "I've been playing with older kids all the way through, since I was little, I just know I've got to play big. I might not be big, but I've got to play big."

Although the Indians (10-10) would have their occasional mini-rallies throughout the game, the early momentum went heavily in Rogers' favor right from the outset when Sweeney caught fire immediately.

She opened the game with a 3-pointer, triggering a 14-2 Rams surge. By the end of the first quarter, Sweeney already had 12 points, although Waite did pull within 16-10.

Cha'Ron Sweeney lifts the City League championship plaque as Rogers coach Lamar Smith and his team celebrated their victory Saturday over Waite. The Rams improved to 16-4. Cha'Ron Sweeney lifts the City League championship plaque as Rogers coach Lamar Smith and his team celebrated their victory Saturday over Waite. The Rams improved to 16-4.
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The Indians were led by 19 points from Marquia Fitch, who matched Sweeney with five 3-pointers, and 17 from Kre'Ana Henry. Waite still was within striking range at 21-15 until Rogers turned up the pressure.

Similar to the way they began the game, the Rams closed the half with a game-breaking 15-2 run capped by backup guard Keyanna Austin's buzzer-beating 15-foot jumper, which gave Rogers a 36-17 edge at the break.

"We had too many turnovers in the first half, unforced turnovers against a great team," Waite coach Manny May said. "That's what [Rogers] wants to do, get up and down, and play helter-skelter.

"And, Cha'Ron Sweeney was awesome out there today running the show for Rogers. My hat's off to Lamar Smith and their first championship."

If there was any hope of an Indians comeback, it was dashed in the third quarter, when Rogers outscored Waite 21-14 and took a 57-31 advantage to the fourth quarter.

"We never calmed down," May said. "We never settled down in the game and really executed on offense or defense."

Rogers was 30-of-63 (48 percent) from the field, 4-of-6 at the line, and forced 26 Waite turnovers while committing just 13.

"Keyanna Austin [six points], coming off the bench, gave us a lot of spark along with Sasha Dailey," Smith said. "It was a team victory. We all played hard and we had a lot of support from our fans. The school's been behind us.

"We just continued to play hard on defense and didn't give up. Waite made their run, but we just had to stay strong."

The Indians were 17-of-49 (35 percent) from the field, 7-of-17 from the line, and edged the Rams 35-32 in rebounding.

"Words can't explain it," Dailey said of the title. "It's just a good feeling. We worked hard for it and put in a lot of time. We came out here today and fought 'til the end and didn't give up.

"Now that we're heading into the [Division II] tournament it just means that we've got to work harder, and keep doing what we've been doing."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.



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