Wake Forest Heritage’s boys (21-7) also came out of the gates playing well and eliminated Southeast Raleigh 71-52 in Bulldogs’ coach John Baker III’s final game.
Sophomore Jayden Gardner, the Cap-8 co-player of the year, was just a little too much for Southeast to handle inside. He scored 27 points and pulled down 17 rebounds. Heritage sophomore guard Jarren McAllister added 15 points, and junior point guard Thayer Thomas made sure they got the ball and scored 10 points of his own.
“I knew I had a size mismatch inside, so I took advantage,” Gardner said. “And it feels great getting that first playoff win, too.”
The Huskies led 21-10 after the first quarter by just three, 31-28, at halftime.
“We did a good job of finishing at the rim, and at halftime we talked about shooting free throws better and getting some stops,” Heritage coach Tilden Brill said. “We made some adjustments and played well.”
Southeast got to within one, 33-32, early in the third period, but Gardner and Thomas combined for the Huskies’ next 10 points. as they pulled away again.”
“Jayden had a big game and McAllister did a good job attacking inside, also,” Brill said. “And Thayer does such a good job controlling the ball and initiating our offense. It’s great to have a point guard like him.”
Malik Ford led Southeast with 13 points, and Malik Bullock added 11.
Southeast Raleigh girls advance: Southeast Raleigh, also a 2015 state finalist, held Wilmington Ashley to 17 points in the final three quarters of play and rolled to a 61-29 victory in the 4A girls playoffs on Tuesday night.
Kia Abrams led the Bulldogs with 18 points and Makayla Sutton added 13.
Southeast (25-3) met Durham Riverside in the second round.
South Johnston girls fall: Triton beat rival South Johnston 73-58 in the 3A girls playoffs in a battle of Two Rivers 3A Conference rivals. The Trojans finished the season with a 14-10 record.
Je’nae Harvey led the Hawks with 28 points, while Tarcia Worney added 16.
It was Triton’s fourth win of the season over their Two River 3A Conference rivals. Each Hawk win was by a larger margin then the previous win. The Hawks won by four-, then seven-, then eight- and finally, a 15-point margin.
South losses six seniors to graduation: Charleston Southern recruit Anna Webster, McKinley Johnson, Carson Denning, Emma Blackman, Sarah Pierce and Skyler Johnson.
Dark Horses rally by Panthers: Clinton’s girls survived a scare from North Johnston in the 2A playoffs, rallying from a double-digit deficit in the first half for a 53-50 victory Tuesday night.
The Panthers, who finished the season 12-14, led 34-29 at the half.
“We started out really well and used our size advantage to get some good looks inside,” said North coach Jay Poole. “We took an early lead by beating their press for fast break points and going inside versus their zone.
“Clinton is very talented and their guard play hit some key shots (three 3s in the second quarter) and they did a nice job of dribble penetration to get to the paint for some key buckets.”
The Panthers couldn’t get even their good shots to fall consistently in the third quarter. Both teams missed key free throws (North was 10-of-22 for the game and the Dark Horses (23-5) missed six in the fourth quarter).
North Johnston freshman Levossie Taylor had a game-high 17 points and sophomore Tayana Jones added nine.
The Panthers will lose two key leaders and players to graduation — Olivia Narron and Emma Turner — but the rest of the roster was made up of sophomores and freshmen.
“I am extremely proud of this team,” Poole said. “I think our conference is really tough and prepared us for tough teams. … The freshmen developed into contributors and the sophomores from last year took another step forward in their development. Our two seniors provided good leadership and set a good example for the others.
“The majority of teams in the Eastern Plains Conference were young and will return most of their starters. We will need to keep working and developing our skills in order to compete in this tough conference next year.”
Neuse Charter squads bow out: Twenty-sixth seeded Hobbton upset Neuse Charter’s boys, 68-66, in the first round of the 1A playoff on Tuesday night in Smithfield. The Cougars finished the season as Carolina 1A Conference regular season champions for the second time in three seasons, going 21-8 on the year.
The Cougars will lose three key players to graduation: guards Byron Addison and Decarius Bryant and post player Devante Stevens. Stevens finished his career at NCS with more than 1,000 career points.
Neuse Charter will return standout guard Jimmie Sanders III next season. He is the school’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,600 points.
The Cougars’ all freshman and sophomore girls team fell to Lakewood 68-38 in the first round of the playoffs as well Tuesday. Neuse Charter won a school record 16 games this season, finishing the year 16-12.
David Justice and D. Clay Best contributed.