The streak is over for the East Wake girls’ basketball team.
The Warriors dispatched Holly Springs 70-39 in the oft-postponed first round of the 4A state basketball playoffs on Sunday, ending a first-round losing streak against lower-seeded teams that dated back to the 2011-12 season.
East Wake (18-6) lost in the first round on its home court in each of the last three seasons – all by less than five points.
But the Warriors ended the suspense early against the Golden Hawks, scoring the first 11 points and leading 28-7 at the end of the first quarter.
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“It feels good to get it out of the way,” Warriors coach Toni Vick Dupree said. “It’s been on the girls’ minds, and my mind as well: ‘We’ve got to get past the first round.’ That was one of our small goals that we were trying to meet this year.”
Her team had to think about that goal for nearly a week because weather closed schools and delayed the game.
“Over the break when we had the snow and stuff, we were ready to play because we knew we had to get past first round,” East Wake senior guard Kianna Wynn said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been past the first round.”
Wynn scored 20 points to lead all scorers, with Angel Rizor putting in 15 and Tamira Knuckles 10.
The start was the key. A pressing defense forced turnovers on Holly Springs’ first three possessions, and East Wake made 12 of 18 shots in the first quarter – getting 15 fast-break points. Nine Warriors scored in the quarter.
“I told the girls when we came out, ‘We’re going to start off pressing and get the momentum of the game going,’” Vick Dupree said. “I thought we did a good job defensively, stepping it up.
“They responded well for us not to have practiced the last couple of weeks. I did try to sub a lot to make sure we didn’t get too winded. I think that helped a lot, but the girls responded well.”
Holly Springs (17-7) made only one of 15 shots in the first quarter and couldn’t dig out of the deep hole.
“We knew what to expect,” said Hawks coach Peace Shepherd Easton. “We knew we had to get back on transition defense with them. They are a fast-paced team. We’ve been out for two weeks, and our girls probably weren’t in condition, so it worked out in their favor.
“Our shots weren’t falling. Our transition defense, it just killed us. They out-hustled us.”
A 3-pointer by freshman Jada Kearney got Holly Springs within 15 midway through the third quarter, but Knuckles buried two 3-pointers and converted a four-point play on the second 3 to salt the game away.
Kearney, off the undefeated junior varsity team, is part of a solid, young nucleus for Holly Springs. The Hawks return all five starters, including freshmen Samantha Weaver and Elizabeth Thomas.
“I’m very excited about our next three years, actually,” Shepherd Easton said. “I’m really looking forward to our next three years with these same girls. We really have a great group of freshmen. They’re all-around players, and they play both offense and defense. I look forward to having my freshmen and our other returners next year.”
East Wake, meanwhile, looks forward to Monday’s second round against Greater Neuse River Conference rival Southeast Raleigh.
“Now, we’re going to take our intensity that we had over to tomorrow when we play against Southeast,” Wynn said.