RALEIGH — After getting three tough victories over Clayton this season, Southeast Raleigh girls basketball coach Nicole Meyers impressed on her team the importance of starting fast on Friday night in the third round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs as the Bulldogs faced the Comets for a fourth time.
Mission accomplished in a 63-38 victory.
Unbeaten Southeast jumped to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter and never looked back to advance to the Eastern Regional for the fourth time in five years.
“We wanted to put the hammer down early and send a message,” Meyers said. “I don’t think we have done that consistently this season. I said today was a perfect day to do it and they did it.”
Clayton (16-10) had lost to Southeast Raleigh (29-0) by 12, 7 and 6 points in their first three meetings this season, including a 34-28 decision in the semifinals of the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference tournament last week.
But the first eight minutes Friday were a nightmare for the Comets, who went 0-for-12 from the floor in the first quarter and did not make a field goal until Vanessa Pitts scored inside with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the second quarter to make the score 22-5.
“Anytime you spot anybody 21 points … ” Clayton coach Marlon Lee said, not needing to finish the sentence. “They were just clicking on all cylinders. I look at the last three quarters and it was a four-point game.
“But hats off to them. They broke open the game the way they wanted to from the beginning. They wanted to get out and run. We were in the position we wanted to be, having played them three times tough. They are a great team. They are not undefeated for nothing.”
Southeast Raleigh was led by sophomore Amber Richardson with 21 points. Richardson was on the receiving end of a lot of fast-break passes and also drove the lane against the Comets’ set defense for baskets.
“Coach always says run the floor and run wide so we can get easy fast-break points,” Richardson said.