As WNC’s public schools battle for conference titles and ready for the playoffs, they have in the back of their minds that dream of winning a state title.
A dramatic run through the playoffs, capturing sectional and regional titles and playing for all the marbles in March.
And while local private schools like the Carolina Day girls and Christ School boys have racked up multiple state titles in recent years, the public schools have suffered through a long drought.
The Smoky Mountain girls team of 2007, led by all-time WNC scoring leader Cetera DeGraffenreid and legendary coach Cindy Simmons, won the 2A title.
That’s the last state championship by a WNC school for boys or girls, and since then 80 titles have been awarded, none to a local school.
The boys’ drought goes even longer – Pisgah’s 2A championship in 2005 was the last, 12 long years ago.
In fact, WNC boys’ teams winning it all has been a rare feat since 1960, when the state began playing championship games in all four classifications.
Just nine teams have claimed titles in 58 seasons, and Hendersonville (3A crown in 1972, 1A titles in ’87 and ’92) and R-S Central (3A championships in ’80 and ‘86) and the only schools with more than one ring.
The others include Pisgah, Reynolds (1988 4A), and 1A programs Edneyville (1984) and Hayesville (2004).
Meanwhile, in a much shorter amount of time, WNC girls’ programs have been much more successful, just not recently.
In a 31-year stretch (from 1977, when the girls began crowning titles in the four classes, to 2007), WNC teams won 29 state championships.
That run was aided greatly by a pair of dynasties – the 1A Hayesville girls under coach Daryl McClure won six consecutive titles (1988-93), and coach Sonita Warren-Dixon Asheville High’s teams won three straight 3A crowns (2003-05).
Overall, 17 local schools have earned a title, including multiple winners Hayesville (six), Asheville High (four, including a 4A title in 1987), Reynolds (4A in 1990 and 2000), Enka (3A in 1978 and 1983), Mitchell (2A in 1996 and 2003) and Murphy (1A in 1995 and 1997).
In addition to Smoky Mountain, 10 other schools have one championship – McDowell (4A, 1991), Erwin (3A, 1980), Pisgah (3A, 1989), West Henderson (3A, 1991), East Henderson (3A, 2000), Madison (2A, 1991), Andrews (1A, 1977), Hiwassee Dam (1A, 1982), Hendersonville (1A, 1987) and Cherokee (1A, 1996).
The 1991 season stands out, as McDowell, West Henderson, Madison and Hayesville all won in their class for a WNC sweep.
While the public schools have struggled to win their last game of the season, a pair of private school dynasties have combined to win 13 state titles since 2005.
Under coach Joe Carrington, the Carolina Day girls have won seven straight state N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association championships, a current streak that began in 2011.
And coach David Gaines led the Christ School boys to six NCISAA state titles, the first in 2005 and then five straight (2007-11).