Dazia Powell had a chance to put her Millbrook girls basketball team up four points over Southeast Raleigh with 23 seconds remaining. A two-possession lead would be a great cushion against a Bulldogs team unwilling to give up.
Powell missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Southeast had a last chance to tie or take the lead.
But Southeast failed to score. Powell once again went back to the line, this time with four seconds left.
She sank the pair, giving her team that coveted two-possession lead with too few seconds left for Southeast to come back. Millbrook ended up winning 51-47 Tuesday night in the 4A East regional semifinals of the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
“I was like, ‘Dang I can’t believe I missed that (1-and-1), but I wouldn’t have made the last two if it wasn’t for my teammates,” Powell said. “They picked me up and they believed in me.”
Millbrook coach Chris East was just as confident as Powell’s teammates.
“I knew she was going to make it,” East said. “I’ll live and die with my chances with that child on the line. Dazia Powell is a big-time player.”
The Millbrook win was a battle to the end and a close matchup between the second-seeded Wildcats and third-seeded Bulldogs.
The game started slow as a defensive struggle, and both sides played sloppy offensively as a result, in the first quarter. The Bulldogs (27-4) had six steals in the period and held the Wildcats (28-2) to just five points. However, Southeast struggled offensively as well and only led 8-5 going into the second quarter.
“We missed some key free throws during that stretch,” said Southeast coach Nicole Meyers. “Some point blank misses at the basket.”
The Wildcats picked up the offense after that and wouldn’t relent, led by four baskets from Andreal Bass in the second quarter. Southeast’s Kia Abrams wouldn’t let her team fall too far behind though, as she hit three 3s in the period.
“We asked the girls at halftime to calm down, stay in the game and do what we normally do, and they responded really well,” East said.
After the break, both teams traded baskets back and forth with individual players carrying their respective squads at different points. In the third quarter, Abrams stayed hot with two more 3s, and her teammate Jada McMillian led the Bulldogs with eight points in the fourth quarter.
For Millbrook, Jaleesa Dillard took the lead first with seven points in the third quarter, but it had a true balanced scoring effort.
Powell and Bass each led Millbrook with 12 points in the win. Kai Crutchfield and Dillard pitched in with 11 apiece.
In the loss, Abrams had 18 points, and McMillian finished with 12.
As the clock ticked down, Southeast was still fighting to tie the game.
Millbrook had control up 49-45 with less than a minute to go, but nearly let the game slip away. It threw the ball out of bounds, which the Bulldogs turned into a layup and really made things close. After Powell missed that free throw, Southeast had a chance to tie and was called for a travel.
“It had the ebbs and flows throughout the game just because both teams matched up,” Meyers said. “Both teams are athletic. Both teams have skilled players. I think it was a great night for girls basketball in the area.”
Although Southeast lost, it finishes the season as Greater Neuse River 4A champions and with a young core returning.
“They’re a top three team in the state, no doubt in my mind,” East said. “Everybody saw they came in and punched us in the mouth. We hadn’t seen a defense like that all year.”