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GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Margaret Metz, Pinecrest Academy
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"ALL GROWN UP" // Pinecrest Academy senior Margaret Metz holds a picture of her playing kindergarten basketball at Pinecrest. I remember really clearly this one game that I was playing defense on this one boy that was like the grade above me. I just remember being all in his face, and after my mom was like, Way to be aggressive! And after we got ice cream. - photo by Micah Green

Margaret Metz always liked the way opposing players looked at her and her Pinecrest Academy girls basketball teammates during pre-game warmups.

Of course, they saw the size of the Lady Paladins’ roster, just seven players, sometimes just five as Metz and fellow senior Christina Brinson often joined the team later to warm up.

Then they saw the size of Metz and her teammates, none standing above 6-feet, few even threatening 5-foot-10. Metz herself is barely 5-foot-5.

“You could see it,” Metz said. “They’re not worried when we go out there.”

Then they saw Metz draining 3-pointers, harassing opponents for steals, slipping under the basket for offensive rebounds, streaking up and down the court from tipoff to final whistle. Then they could see what made Metz the 2016-17 Forsyth County News’ Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

But by then, it was usually too late.

Metz capped a remarkable career with a season that “definitely exceeded expectations,” she said. The guard averaged 24.3 points a game. In the process, she broke the school’s all-time scoring record for girls and boys. She led Pinecrest to its first state playoff win in the GHSA, then led the Lady Paladins to the state quarterfinals.

It was an experience so gratifying and successful that it jolted Metz’s ambitions. She hadn’t thought about playing basketball in college before this past season, but that could change in a few weeks.

“I just thought I would have a great run in high school and be done,” Metz said. “But at the start of the summer, starting to have my first last things for basketball, it kind of got to me, and I didn’t really feel like I was done.”

FCN: What was your favorite game this season?

Metz: “Darlington (in the Region 6-1A tournament semifinals) was my favorite. We had five, almost six people, in double digits. The next day their coach brought our whole team together and said, ‘We thought if we could cover me or (sister) Regina (Metz) we’d be OK, but we come down first play, dish it out to Maddie (Lynch), 3-pointer. Next play, Molly (Dankowski) drains a 3. And he’s just going, Oh no, we were not prepared for this. Everybody contributed so much.”

FCN: What was your favorite performance this season?

Metz: “Probably Fellowship Christian at their place. That’s a bit of a rivalry for us. For some reason, whenever we go to their gym, it’s just kind of one of those rivalries that just gets in your head sometimes. Coach says, ‘I don’t know why, whenever you play Fellowship you don’t play like yourselves.’

“So it was at halftime, and we were around tied, I think we were up 1 or 2. I’ve never won a game there at Fellowship ever, my entire time at Pinecrest. Even my brothers can’t ever remember winning at Fellowship. We went in and just the offense in the second half really came. I forget how we much won by, but it was sweet winning at their place.”

FCN: Who was the toughest player you had to defend?

Metz: “Maya Dotson, for St. Francis. I just couldn’t do the things that I usually would do. My 3s I would have to take a little farther back or pump-fake to get around her. Everything’s got to be faster – your drives have be quicker, your ballhandling’s got to be better. She’s a really great defender, but she’s a lot longer defender than most people we play.”

FCN: What are you going to take away from your time playing basketball for Pinecrest?

Metz: “When I think of just my athletics at Pinecrest, it’s definitely going to be wrapped up in this team this year. My seven teammates, like all of us eight girls working so hard. … We have this one workout, it’s really famous, where it’s with a partner the whole time, and you hold a plank while they sprint a lap and then you switch, and you just continue. We’d do it outside on a little towel, and your partner would run around, for 30 minutes.

“When I think about everything and just our team, a lot of that really, really pushing for each other. This season has been unlike any other sports experience that I’ve had.”