PRINCETON — Rewind it back to 13 months ago, before the Princeton girls basketball team made the state championship game, before the pandemic, all the way back to February 5.
Princeton and Neuse Charter were going shot for shot with each other for the 1-A Carolina Conference title. The Lady Bulldogs led by Meredith Wooten and the Neuse Charter Cougars led by Ana Taylor. The game ended in a 48-46 win for Princeton. Then head coach, Robby Taylor, was beside himself as he thought his daughter and star player, Ana, was fouled on her final jump shot that would’ve won the game. Both Princeton and Neuse Charter finished their season a little over three weeks later in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Fast forward to today, and Taylor and Wooten will be playing together for a state championship.
“I had an idea we would be here, but it took a lot of work,” Wooten said. “Anna was a big addition to our team this year. It’s been fun, though. A very fun season.”
The Wooten-Taylor pairing has been dubbed “The Unlikely Duo” by now Princeton assistant coach Robbie Taylor. How did it all come together? Well, the answer is simply educational.
Anna Taylor wants to be a veterinarian, and Princeton has classes that will help her achieve her goal. Thus the switch in schools — the basketball situation just happened to be a plus. Robbie said they considered switching schools before her high school career started.
Once “The Unlikely Duo” was formed, the question was: how would they fit together?
“Sometimes you get teams together like that, and there’s not enough balls on the floor,” Taylor said. “I’ve seen Anna develop her game differently this year. She still shoots the ball well, but she’s really worked hard in making sure that Meredith still did what she did.”
Anna came into this partnership averaging 21.6 points, 3.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game last year. Anna also led the state in 3-pointers made with 104 in 198 attempts. To this point, she’s averaging 20.4 points, 4.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.1 steals per game. She’s also nailed 50 3-pointers in 99 attempts. Despite similar production, Anna feels like she’s learned alot from the senior Wooten.
“I’ve learned from her on how she changes the game on the floor,” Anna said. “We’re down six, but then Meredith comes back on the floor and you know she’s there. It’s awesome to learn from her. She’s been a great leader and person to look up to this year.”
Wooten averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals per game last season. This year, Wooten is averaging 19.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 3.4 steals per game. Wooten said Taylor has taken the pressure off her last year.
“A lot of stress has been taking off because of Anna,” Wooten said. “She knows where to be. If I ever need a break, I can take a break without being stressed out.”
Anna said the transition was smooth because the Princeton girls were open and accepting of her.
“We all came together as teammates and said we have to do this together,” Anna said. “The first day of practice, I walked in and they were excited because they were happy that they didn’t have to play against me anymore.”
Anna said she felt like when they beat Kinston they could reach their goal of winning the state title.
“It’s unreal how close we are to getting that ring and putting that banner up,” Anna said as she pointed at an open spot in the state championship banners wall in Deacon Jones Gymnasium. “We’ve been looking at that all year saying that’s our goal, we’re going to get there.”