HUNTERSVILLE – It all starts on the defensive end for Destiny Barrino.
She said her offensive prowess is based on how well she plays defensively. This season, the North Mecklenburg High junior guard was splendid on both ends of the court. Barrino is the Herald Weekly’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
She led a fervent group of Vikings defenders that often made steals that turned into layups. Or foced opponents to shoot from uncomfortable spots. Or score much less than normal.
The Vikings were 26-4, won the I-MECK 4A conference and went four rounds into the state playoffs. Barrino was a big reason why. She averaged 13 points, seven rebounds and six steals, and was named the conference player of the year.
“My offense deals from my defensive side,” Barrino said. “Even if you get beat on a play, you can never give up. I think I finished (plays) more this season and didn’t get mad if I didn’t. I feel like I lifted our team to a lot of victories.”
Barrino’s thievery produced some impressive statistics. She had 15 steals against Independence, 10 against Mallard Creek and Mooresville, eight against Hough and two other games with seven.
“Her defense is literally what drove us,” North Mecklenburg coach Jennifer Baker said. “A loy of people look at the offensive side of Destiny, but this season isn’t wasn’t the offense. Her defense got everybody going. She’d get the hard rebound and get the whole team to step up their defense. We were able to pressure up on people. Her attitude, her mindset and her leadership in that way drove us. And that parlayed into offensive points.”
Barrino led a deep team that included six players who averaged six or more points.
“It’s a lot easier to play on a team like that,” Barrino said. “If one person is injured or in foul trouble, someone else would step up. Everyone did their part.”
Barrino said a season highlight was the 54-47 victory against Hough High in early January. It was the first time North Mecklenburg beat Hough in their three seasons of competition. She had 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight steals, three assists and plenty of help, she said.
“We really played as a team,” Barrino said. “No one could say they didn’t contribute to that victory.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Jennifer Baker made fine use of all her assets.
Baker parlayed North Mecklenburg’s depth and versatility into a 26-4 season that included three victories in the N.C. 4A playoffs. She is the Herald Weekly’s Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
North Mecklenburg won the I-MECK 4A conference with a 13-1 record. The Vikings began the season by winning six straight games, lost one, and then reeled off a 13-game winning streak. The Vikings didn’t have a 20-point scorer, instead relying on six players who averaged six points or more.
Baker made sure every Viking was plugged in mentally to play defense, which was the team’s strength. North Mecklenburg held 11 opponents to 40 points or less. The playoff victories were against Lake Norman, Watauga and West Mecklenburg.