The Millbrook girls’ basketball team had much to overcome after one half against East Wake.
The Wildcats found themselves trailing by 10 at the break and were forced into several uncomfortable shots. On defense, the hosts had no answer for East Wake senior forward Angel Rizor in the first half.
With an early undefeated record on the line Tuesday night, Millbrook turned to senior forward L’Donnisty Granison.
Her overall defense, especially on Rizor, pushed the Cats to a 55-53 victory.
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“We needed somebody I knew was going to be tough on her (Rizor) and not give her any easy looks, and ‘Boosie’ was the answer,” Millbrook coach Chris East said of Granison.
Granison is from Louisiana, and her nickname is derived from rapper Lil’ Boosie, who shares her home state.
“She had a great game,” East continued. “What people probably didn’t see is the defense she played in the second half; it was amazing. I love that kid. I’m so lucky that we have her at Millbrook from Louisiana. She was just a spark plug.”
Millbrook moved to a 5-0 record following Tuesday’s victory, using a 10-0 run to start the third quarter and tie the game. Its first lead was quickly stolen back by a Rizor layup.
Down the stretch was where Granison had her chance to shine. She scored eight points off the bench but led the game with six steals.
She also contributed offensively in key moments and added two assists.
With 6:48 showing, Granison drained her only 3-pointer on a pass from junior Dazia Powell. Powell led the Wildcats with 17 points, catching fire — especially at the free throw line — in the second half. The Granison triple gave Millbrook a 43-41 advantage for its second lead of the night.
“First quarter, second quarter, we really didn’t have any intensity,” Granison said. “We went into the locker room and talked it out.”
Granison finished a feed from Kai Crutchfield to knot the game back up at 45-45 about a minute after her 3-pointer, and a Granison bucket captured another Millbrook lead with 3:33 left.
Inside two minutes, Granison found senior Domonique Cross under the hoop right before the Cats’ defense forced one of East Wake’s 27 turnovers. The Warriors, who moved to 2-1 after the loss, committed a string of critical turnovers down the stretch.
And Granison was on site for the final error.
She bundled up a loose ball with just 29.9 seconds to go, sealing the victory.
“I know that I’m more of a defensive player,” Granison said. “My coach and my teammates were trusting me to shut a certain person down, so I had to prove to them that I could. It was hard (to guard Rizor), but I knew I could do it. I had to prove it to her and my teammates that I could do it, so I shut her down.”
Rizor led the game with 21 points and 13 rebounds. She made just one of three attempts in the final quarter. Powell led Millbrook on the glass with 11 boards.
Five Wildcats recorded blocks, and though they stayed blemish-free, the Millbrook coach wasn’t completely satisfied.
While East said he doesn’t have the strongest free throw shooters, the 56 percent from the line helped Millbrook climb back into the game. Powell went 9-of-10 from the stripe.
East also said his team’s defense needs to improve, attributing the Cats’ 10-0 run more to the Warriors missing shots that were makes in the first half than Millbrook shutting off the their scorers.
Rizor led at the half with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, but she missed her first four shots in the third quarter, going 2-of-7 that period.
“Our defense needs a lot of work, to be honest with you,” East said. “You can’t open up the first half against a great team like East Wake like we did. It just can’t happen. There’s no excuse for it. … I think the difference between the first half and the second half was … they hit a lot of shots in the first half and missed some of those shots in the second. That kind of played into it. I think we sped them up when we needed to, and they took some quick shots like we were doing in the first half.
“I’m happy we survived.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan