RALEIGH — —Considering the Southeast Raleigh girls basketball team went undefeated in the Greater Neuse River Conference, unbeaten at home all season, unbeaten against North Carolina schools and won 21 regular season games by an average of 35 points, the Bulldogs may not have been battle-tested before the postseason.
They are now.
Southeast Raleigh (24-2) out-lasted Wilmington Laney 44-39 in the third round of the 4A NCHSAA playoffs to earn a return trip to Fayetteville for a spot in the Eastern regionals next Thursday night.
In an intense game marked by high pressure defense, the Bulldogs trailed Laney 19-16 at the break.
Jade Phillips calmed down the Bulldogs in the pivotal third quarter, however, as the junior posted six points, three rebounds, a pair of assists and a key block that led to a fast break lay-up to give Southeast Raleigh a three-point advantage heading into the final quarter.
“In the first half, I felt that she was pushing too much,” Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers said of Phillips, who ended the game with 11 points. “She settled down and started playing the way she’s played all year long.”
The game was tied 37-37 with 3:12 left and Southeast held a 40-38 lead with 2:03 remaining.
The Bulldogs ran off 40 seconds before Amber Richardson got around her defender and drove for a layup.
“Our composure, stepping up on defense and then getting and finishing good shots (were key),” said Richardson, who led the Bulldogs with 13 points.
An Alexus Hicks’ steal prevented the Buccaneers from getting off when they trailed 42-39.
Edwards led the Buccaneers with 18 points while Baham added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Tiffany McCarter joined Phillips and Richardson in double figures with 10 points for a Southeast Raleigh team that beat Northern Durham by 13 points in the opening round before scraping past Jordan by five points in the second round.
“We’ve worked this week,” Meyers said. “What I’ve liked is that we’ve had our backs up against the wall and the fight and determination they’ve shown is the type of fight and determination they need to win a state championship.
“We’ve been battle-tested early and they think they can overcome anything so we’re going into regionals with some confidence.”