The East Wake and Southeast Raleigh girls basketball teams will have one more chance at each another Thursday night in the Greater Neuse River Conference championship game thanks to a pair of impressive performances from both clubs in the semi-finals Wednesday night.
Southeast Raleigh used stifling defense and efficient offense to take down Rolesville 54-23 and East Wake beat archrival Knightdale 55-47 to set up a tantalizing title game between the two powerhouses that will enter the championship with a combined 45-6 record.
“It’s going to be a good game, that’s all I can say,” said East Wake coach Toni Dupree after her team survived a late Knights’ run to punch its ticket to the championship. “We’ve got to just bring it tomorrow and be ready to play.”
Warriors hold off late Knightdale charge
It appeared that a big run to end the first half and impressive one to start the second half staked East Wake to a big enough lead over Knightdale that the final eight minutes of the contest would be uneventful.
However, the Knights (17-6) made sure the Warriors wouldn’t get off so easy. Knightdale put together an 11-2 run in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to trim what was once a 17-point East Wake lead down to 50-45 after Melody Prichard banked in a 3-pointer from deep with 1:31 to go.
East Wake responded with a clutch basket, however, as Maiya McCoy beat the ensuing full-court Knightdale press finding Mikieja Covington for an easy bucket that stemmed the tide.
“I think we have what it takes to have made a run in this conference, it just comes down to execution,” Knightdale coach Trent Bunn said. “We showed the ability to fight, now we just have to fight more consistently.”
The teams were battling back-and-forth for much of the first half but Tamira Knuckles and Angel Rizor sparked a late second quarter surge as the second-seeded Warriors ended the half on a 12-3 run that gave them a 30-20 lead at halftime.
East Wake jumped out to a 41-24 lead by opening the second half hot as well, this time with an 11-4 run fueled by Knuckles, McCoy and Rizor as the Warriors’ frontcourt was unstoppable in stretches.
“They were trying to stop our outside game so it was just best for us to try to get it inside,” said Dupree. “I know our post players are capable of scoring. We did what we needed to do.”
Rizor ended her night with 17 points and 14 rebounds. McCoy added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Knuckles also ended the game in double digits with 13.
Prichard paved the way for Knightdale with 13 points and Mikaya Wilson contributed 12.
Bulldogs dominant in semifinal matchup
It was another dominant performance from the Southeast Raleigh (23-3) girls basketball team as the Bulldogs cruised to the championship game routing fourth-seeded Rolesville (14-12).
Southeast Raleigh has been paying extra attention to ratcheting up its defensive intensity lately and it showed, as the Rams couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm.
Rolesville’s three baskets in the first half all came as a result of beating the Southeast Raleigh fullcourt press. The Rams had a more difficult time getting anything productive going in their halfcourt offense as the Bulldogs denied their guests wherever they went.
“That’s what we’ve been keying in on lately,” Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers said. “All our teams in the past have adopted that defensive identity. This group is a lot more offensive-minded. … Just getting them to get back to the basics and back to what Southeast Raleigh basketball is about; we’re seeing that now.
“I think they came out and played with a dominant mindset just going into the state playoffs.”
Southeast Raleigh led 27-11 at the break and put the game out of reach in the third quarter, outscoring the Rams 18-2.
Tamia Hicks came off the bench to lead the Bulldogs with 16 points and four blocked shots. Kia Abrams tallied 13 points and had five steals.
Valencia Carroll led Rolesville with six points while Naomi Lockamy and Jaylyn Powell each added five.