Southeast Raleigh boys basketball coach John Baker said he finally saw signs of his team playing up to its potential after a disappointing start that still has the Bulldogs playing at a sub-.500 clip.
Southeast began the game crisply and then held off an East Wake comeback for a 55-50 victory in Greater Neuse River 4A Conference action Thursday night in the Bulldogs’ gym.
“We had great effort and intensity tonight,” Baker said. “We’ve been struggling with that all year. But this time we came out with intensity and when they came back on us we took it back from them down the stretch.
“We need to keep working on our intensity and our mental approach to the game. I think this game might have gotten us over the hump.”
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The Bulldogs improved to 4-5 overall and 2-1 in the GNRC, while East Wake dropped to 5-4 and 1-2.
David Thompson and Shamel Gulley led Southeast Raleigh with 14 points each. Timarcus Simpson joined them in double figures with 11.
“We’ve got some physical talent on this team,” Baker said. “I’ve been challenging the kids about their intensity and mental approach.”
Ja’mel Coles led the Warriors with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Josh McLean added 12 points.
Southeast Raleigh opened up an 11-0 lead in the first quarter before East Wake hit two baskets in the final two minutes to trim the deficit to 13-4.
“We just started out really cold,” said first-year East Wake coach Gerald Melton. “We had some good attempts at the basket and couldn’t get any to fall early. Then we started forcing some shots.
“That just snowballs from there. We start rushing and it makes it even worse. When we settled down we started getting some easy baskets and actually would have gone ahead, but a basket didn’t count where we stepped out of bounds.”
The game was back and forth the rest of the way with Southeast leading 25-17 at halftime and 40-35 after three periods.
But East Wake tied the game 43-all with 4:45 to play with an 8-3 run to open the fourth period.
Southeast Raleigh regained the lead on a fast-break dunk by Gulley. The Bulldogs maintained the lead down the stretch when East Wake was forced to foul by hitting 10 of 12 free throws in the final two minutes.
Chris McElroy came off the bench to hit four of four from the line to account for all of his scoring. Thompson also was four of four down the stretch.
In addition to the slow start, Melton said late turnovers were costly for his Warriors.
“We had trouble running our offense, so you have to credit Southeast’s defense for that,” he said.
Another area of improvement Baker wants is sharing the ball. The Bulldogs passed the ball well on the outside to find someone to penetrate, but too often players forced their way through double teams rather than dropping off a pass to an open teammate.
“I’m an old-school coach,” said Baker, commenting on the influence of ESPN highlights. “We’re trying to teach them to share the ball.”