Scoring is not the first thought that usually comes to Alex Tomlinson’s mind on the court.
It’s not the second, either.
Yet, as Tomlinson looked at the scoreboard inside Crown Arena, with the third quarter almost over, she realized Millbrook needed a scorer.
Instead of passing – and sticking to Hope Mills South View’s scouting report for her – Tomlinson keep shooting.
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She kept scoring, too. Millbrook never relinquished its lead in the second half, and Tomlinson, the unlikeliest of players, was the force that pushed the Wildcats to a 54-49 victory against previously undefeated South View in the NCHSAA 4-A Eastern Regional championship Saturday.
“I knew we needed to score in some way to keep the lead,” Tomlinson said. “I was confident. If I saw an opening, I knew I was going to shoot.”
South View started the second half by cutting Millbrook’s seven-point lead to one, which made Tomlinson eye the scoreboard.
Tomlinson used her dribble, and screens from forward Ryan Flowers and center Briana Day, to score 13 of her season-high 19 points in the second half. She also had a five assists.
Tomlinson, a point guard, had been Millbrook’s primary distributor all season. She knows her role is to keep things steady by handling the ball and running the Wildcats’ offense.
Against South View (29-1), however, Tomlinson answered every run by the Tigers with a basket of her own.
“Alex made some nice shots, and they weren’t easy,” South View coach Brent Barker said.
“She still made tough shots, and those were big in the third quarter.”
When Tomlinson wasn’t shooting, Millbrook (30-2) created just enough turnovers on defense. Millbrook coach Chris East had his team switch between half-court man-to-man defense and a full-court zone press. The confusion led to 19 turnovers by the Tigers.
“I think we were better on defense in the second half,” East said. “When we get out and run we have a pretty good chance to score.”
Tomlinson usually creates for Millbrook’s offense in its half-court offense. Once the Wildcats built a comfortable lead, Tomlinson looked to get the ball to Day in the paint.
One of the biggest plays of the fourth quarter was Tomlinson escaping a trap by South View to find Day under the basket.
“Alex has really good court vision,” said Day, who had 16 points.
“She’s an unselfish player. She really helped us.”
Millbrook will play West Forsyth (25-3), which beat Charlotte Myers Park 43-40 in the Western Regional final, for the state championship March 10 at Reynolds Coliseum on N.C. State’s campus.
Last year, Millbrook defeated South View 57-39 in the regional final. That win gave Millbrook its first trip to the state championship in school history, a trip that ended with the Wildcats falling 44-35 to Southwest Guilford.
The Wildcats didn’t celebrate too much after receiving the regional championship plaque Saturday. The team just huddled on the court for a few seconds.
Surrounded by her teammates, Tomlinson was proud she led the Wildcats back to the state title game.
“It would have been devastating,” Tomlinson said, “if we hadn’t gotten back to this point.”