Kai Crutchfield, Mikayla Boykin and the girls can draw a crowd, too.
Many area high school basketball aficionados may be waiting for 45th annual Holiday Invitational’s marquee boys games to begin play on Tuesday, but enough fans turned out for the opening round’s nightcap in the John Wall girls bracket to fill the Cary Academy gym.
It was standing-room-only to see defending state champion Millbrook led by the N.C. State-bound Crutchfield face Clinton with Duke-bound Boykin coming off a state-record 62 points scored a week ago. Millbrook ended the drama early in the second quarter when the Wildcats tightened their defense and spread the ball around to four players in double figures to pull away with an 80-54 victory.
Boykin started the game quickly with seven points in the first quarter, but then the Wildcats’ help on defense forced her to give up the ball. She had only 11 at halftime and finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
“When we play teams that only have one or two people that can score, we try to shut them down and make them rely on their other people,” said Zairya West, who finished with 13 points.
Offensively, Crutchfield led the Wildcats (11-1) with 20 points, but she only had five points at halftime. Millbrook’s offense found other people open.
“We recognized who has the hot hand, and we get them the ball,” said senior Raya Coley, who scored seven points. “It’s a team game. We try to get the ball around as much as we can. It depends on what plays we run and the matchups.”
Crutchfield isn’t alone among college-bound players for the balanced Wildcats, who won last year’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A title.
West is committed to Norfolk State and Coley has an offer from UTEP. Dazia Powell (18 points) is bound for Old Dominion; Andreal Bass (14 points), Lenoir-Rhyne; and Sis Norman (6 points), Morehead State.
Boykin, whose 62 points were scored Dec. 19 in a 104-53 win over Triton, and coach Chris Owen said Millbrook’s defense was the toughest Clinton (7-2) has faced.
“It was pretty tough,” she said. “Every time I tried to drive they closed in, so I had to look for other options.”
No. 19 Green Hope 61, No. 22 Ravenscroft 42
The N&O No. 19-ranked Falcons (10-2) won their second straight game and fifth out of seven since senior point guard Kelly Fitzgerald was sidelined with tendinitis in her knee. Catherine Holbrook and Bailey Fowler are sharing the point guard role, and they spread the ball among three players in double figures.
Nia Washington finished with 22 points, Rachel Argabright 13 and Demoyia Corprew 10. Green Hope hit 13 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter to break open a 42-37 lead early in the period. Washington made 5-of-6 and Argabright 4-of-4.
Fitzgerald, a fourth-year starter committed to Davidson, isn’t expected to return before league play resumes in January
For the No. 22 Ravens (7-4), Lynn Johnson scored 17 points, Madison Taylor 15 and Erin Hughes 10.
No. 5 Heritage 54, No. 24 Riverside 33
The Huskies (9-1) broke open a slow-starting game with a 23-9 edge in the second period for a 30-15 halftime lead. Cydney Johnson led Heritage with 22 points. Demi Washington and Alcenia Purnell added 10 each.
For Riverside (6-5), Aijah Perry was the only girl in double figures for the Durham school with 14 points.
Northwood Temple 63, No. 15 Cary 45
The Imps tied the game late in the second quarter 17-17 before the Fayetteville team scored the first half with a three treys for a 26-17 halftime advantage it built on the rest of the way.
Ariana Smith and Tamari Key led the Imps (6-4) with 12 points each.
Northwood Temple’s Kendal Moore scored 26 points. Clara Moore added 19 and Shenell Davis 10.
Tuesday’s games at Cary Academy
Riverside vs. Ravenscroft, noon
Cary vs. Clinton, 3 p.m.
Green Hope vs. Heritage, 4:30 p.m.
Millbrook vs. Northwood Temple, 6 p.m.