Millbrook starters fought to get on the floor in the first game against Heritage.
This time around, they got a chance to rest.
Behind stellar offensive efficiency and defensive commitment, the Wildcats boys’ basketball core dominated Heritage, 80-43, in the teams’ third matchup of the year.
Friday, though, was for the Cap-8 Conference tournament championship.
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“The starters really set the tone early and got after it,” Millbrook coach Scott McInnes said. “I think they were (trying to make a statement). We split with them in the first two games, and I think it was a statement game.”
Millbrook had already locked up its fifth consecutive regular-season conference crown. It’s only loss on the year came at Heritage in January.
The Cap-8 hasn’t seen a conference tournament since this year’s seniors were freshmen, and that significant fact resonated with one in particular.
Senior forward Faison Brock had a perfect night. He finished 9-of-9 from the floor and nailed his only free throw for 19 points. The team’s defensive rebounding leader didn’t shy away from his duties on the glass, bringing down a game-best nine – all defensive.
He said McIness reminded him before the game that he’s playing in his final Cap-8 tournament.
“I just wanted to end this off with a win,” said Brock, one of four Millbrook all-conference selections. “We wanted to come out and show that we’re No. 1 (in the tournament) for a reason. .No one works harder than we do in practice, so we just wanted to show that we’re -- the best.”
With a comfortable, running-clock inducing lead in hand to start the fourth, the starters rested, the reserves made the most of their shining moments – which included a putback dunk from Gee Kalejaiye for the Cats’ first points of the quarter, and Millbrook put a stamp on the statement victory.
Millbrook allowed Heritage to be efficient from the floor in the first game. Millbrook held the conference’s leading scorer, Jayden Garner, to two points in the opening half, while muscling out a 14-0 lead.
Garner finished with 14 points to lead the Huskies.
Millbrook senior guard John Burwell led the game with 24 points, and Jordan Whitfield ended up with 10. The Cats shot 83 percent in the third quarter, and Burwell finished 5-of-5 that frame.
“This was a huge statement, especially for the playoffs,” Burwell said. “(Heritage) did beat us the first time, once again, but beating them by 43 points, that’s really good. Oh, this is a confidence builder right here.”
Girls remain perfect in all conference games
With the satisfying sunshine making it possible for a Cap-8 tournament this year, some storms weren’t quite over for the Millbrook girls’ basketball team.
It hadn’t lost to an in-state school all season, but Leesville Road’s second-half push threatened that streak in Friday’s Cap-8 final at Broughton.
A balanced Millbrook team, as has been the case all season, weathered a sturdy Pride group for a 51-37 Cap-8 tournament victory.
The Millbrook girls have been perfect in all league games this year, going 14-0 in the conference to win its regular-season title.
The Wildcats (24-2) executed a forceful first half, despite some early offensive struggles (missing nine consecutive shots) and will await this weekend’s playoff seedings.
“We got a little to anxious and didn’t stay with it. If we take shots in the offense and miss eight in a row, I’m OK with it,” Millbrook girls’ coach Chris East said. “We’re going in 0-0 on Tuesday, and we better be 1-0 after Tuesday night.”
Through the first six and a half minutes of the second quarter, the Cats held Leesville to two points. East said his team at one point became frustrated, all the result of a battle-tested Pride team.
Pride’s Allie Moss sank a 3-pointer from Shea Plocharczyk to create some steam that propelled them into the fourth.
But a few Millbrook baskets dampened the threat.
Kai Crutchfield led the Cats with 10 points, and Leesville Road’s Kelly Funderburk led the game with 15 points and five assists.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan