Heritage girls basketball players let Millbrook, the defending state champions, know they were gunning for them.
Heritage upset Millbrook 55-44 in the John Wall Holiday Invitational girls championship game Friday at Broughton.
“We know their girls on a personal level,” said Heritage junior point guard Alissa Smalls. “We tell Millbrook we’re going to bring it. We told them we want to beat them because they’re No. 1. To be No. 1 you have to beat No. 1.”
Smalls hit layups ahead of the buzzer in the second and third quarters and beat the Millbrook’s press in the fourth period to finish with nine points, four assists and two steals. Cydney Johnson, the tournament MVP, and Demi Washington scored 13 points each and Alcenia Purnell added 10.
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Millbrook (12-2), which swept the Huskies by 20 and six points last year en route to Cap-8 and N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A titles, is ranked No. 1 among N&O schools. Fifth-ranked Heritage (11-1) played in the Holiday Invitational for the first time in the school’s seventh year since it opened.
“All year they have been talking about beating us,” said Millbrook’s Dazia Powell. “We knew that, but we came out flat and underestimated the. Our defense wasn’t there.”
The Wildcats won’t have to wait long to redeem themselves. The teams are both off to 4-0 starts in Cap 8 play and meet again Jan. 8 at Heritage.
This budding rivalry has the potential for five meetings counting conference and state tournament play, but that doesn’t scare the Huskies.
“We don’t think we’re playing our best basketball yet,” Heritage coach Pat Kennedy said. “I saw some things tonight starting to click naturally. I’m hoping we can get better and peak at the right time.”
The fourth quarter was the difference in a game Heritage led 13-11 after the first period, Millbrook led 27-26 at halftime and Heritage led 36-35 after three quarters.
Heritage opened a 47-40 lead before the Huskies converted a five-point play. Johnson was fouled and Millbrook was called for a technical foul.
Smalls hit two free throws, Johnson hit two, then Purnell was fouled on the inbounds play and hit one for a 52-40 lead with 57 seconds to play.
Powell led Millbrook with 20 points and Kai Crutchfield added 12.
Millbrook coach Chris East said his team’s first two tournament wins by 26 and 22 points were misleading. The Wildcats were 0-of-8 putting up three-pointers in the second half.
“We have to change our attitude,” East said. “We’ve been successful, but we’ve been going through the motions in practice – and that’s on me. I love these kids, and they do what we ask. But they’re hearing too much about how good they are. I knew this was going to catch up to us and it did tonight.”