When the season began, the Southeast Raleigh girls basketball team was missing one of its most important pieces. East Carolina recruit Tamia Hicks was injured, leaving the Bulldogs without an important senior leader in the post.
As Hicks’ shoulder healed, she eased back into the rotation as a reserve.
Coach Nicole Meyers was tempted to put her in the starting five once it fully healed, but Southeast Raleigh was undefeated. Meyers decided to keep Hicks coming in off the bench.
The strategy has more than paid off. The Bulldogs (31-0) are ranked No. 14 in the MaxPreps national top 25 entering Saturday’s championship game with Northwest Guilford, slated for a 2:35 p.m. tipoff at Reynolds Coliseum.
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“Yes, she is capable of being a starter, but what works best for our team is her coming off the bench and giving us that good offensive punch, and that has worked all season for us,” Meyers said. “We were working her back in anyway, and it just so happened it worked nicely with her coming off the bench, so we kept with it for the rest of the season.”
Few girls basketball teams have enough depth to keep one of their tallest players on the bench, much less a college-bound senior.
The problems it creates were evident in a 47-31 win over defending state champion Millbrook in last Saturday’s 4A East final.
Millbrook’s offense was disrupted when Hicks entered the game. Not only did she contend for rebounds that were primarily going to the Wildcats’ Andreal Bass, but her long arms picked off long passes that had been working earlier in the game.
“It’s a great luxury to have,” Meyers said.
She had eight points, four rebounds and four steals.
“In my mind, I was just like ‘I can’t lose.’ I just wanted to win so bad,” Hicks said.
Asking a player of Hicks’ caliber to step off the bench may have been a problem for another player, another team or in another year. But Hicks and her teammates long ago decided to put aside personal gain for a goal that can be reached on Saturday: the school’s second state title, first since 1999.
“She has sacrificed personal glory for the success of our team, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Meyers said.