When Southeast Raleigh’s girls basketball team is playing its best defense, it feeds a fast-break offense. It can be a devastating combination.
Southeast played its best defense in the first half of its fourth-round game against visiting New Hanover on Tuesday, holding the Wildcats to 11 points and running its way to a 34-11 halftime lead en route to a 54-35 win.
Then, to continue the trend, the Bulldogs (30-0 and the top seed in the Eastern bracket), scored the first seven points of the third period. New Hanover (26-4 and seeded 4th) went more than 11 minutes without scoring.
“I think we really did a good job of setting the tone with our defense,” Southeast coach Nicole Meyers said. “That was some of the best defense we have played all year. ... Our defense all year long has led to our offense. That is our identity. I thought today we got back to our identity. … I thought that (first half) was one of our better halves all year. We were clicking on all cylinders.”
New Hanover had just scored four straight points to pull within 15-11 when the avalanche began. Pressure man-to-man defense by Southeast led to turnovers (New Hanover finished with 22) and the Bulldogs were off and running.
The 19-0 run to end the half settled the outcome and was devastating to watch. The half ended with Southeast blocking a 3-point attempt – putting an exclamation point on a simply dominant defensive effort.
“I think we got rattled in the first few minutes and I never could settle them down,” New Hanover coach Vertha Dixon-Wright said. “(Southeast) clearly outrebounded us, they ran the floor extremely well and they shot the ball well. ... We got beat. We literally got beat. ... That’s a good team and they are going to go far.”
Sophomore Tamia Davis led the Bulldogs with 16 points and freshman Anya Poole added 12.
New Hanover was led by Azariah Fields with 13.
It was a good night on two fronts for Southeast Raleigh. They also earned a rematch with Millbrook, which eliminated the Bulldogs in the fourth round last season.
The two will play in Fayetteville on Saturday in the Eastern Regional final.
“We know a lot about Millbrook and Millbrook knows a lot about us,” Meyers said. “It would be good to see them again. Our girls are looking forward to that. ... That (loss to Millbrook) still has rubbed them the wrong way. They want a do-over.”
The Bulldogs will get their do-over.
And Meyers says they won’t prepare any different than they have all season.
“Now is not the time to stray from what has been working,” Meyers said. “What we have been focusing on all year is playing Southeast Raleigh basketball. Everything will take care of itself. If we stay true to the things that are important to us, we are going to be successful.”
Asked for a definition of Southeast Raleigh basketball, Meyers was succinct.
“Defense, defense, defense,” she said, laughing. “That’s it.”