“Finish.” That’s what Hillside girls told themselves before Tuesday night’s fourth-round game against Lumberton.
And finish they did.
The Hornets defeated the Pirates 60-29 to advance to the N.C. High School Athletic Association East Regional final against Millbrook.
Hillside’s only loss (28-1) of the season was to the Wildcats on Nov. 28. Since then, the team has reeled off 27 straight victories.
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But Tuesday night was all about finishing and dominance.
Hillside senior Elisia Grissett was unstoppable with another double-double of 29 points and 13 rebounds, plus four blocks. Grissett played almost every position – guard, forward and center – and scored from every angle imaginable.
“We had a lot of energy tonight,” she said. “When it was close in the first period, it just made us play harder because we want to win and take it all the way, can’t give up now. …We finished.”
Grissett and guard Michaela Thompson (13 points) controlled the show for the first quarter and a half. The duo scored the Hornets’ first 19 points to lead Lumberton (25-3) 19-12.
Senior Ja’Mia Johnson made it 21-12 with 3:40 left in the first half to break the rest of the team’s drought. The Hornets built the margin to 12 at halftime on stellar defense that caused six team blocks.
“We really played well on defense, but our offense was much better today,” said Hillside coach Ovester Grays, whose team scored just 33 points in a win over Green Hope last Saturday. “Playing (four) games at home has really helped us to play more relaxed and confident.”
The second half was all Hillside. The Hornets used a 13-2 run to pull ahead 40-21 with 2:36 left in the third.
Hillside finished with eight team blocks and outrebounded the Pirates 37-20.
“If you would have told me before the season that we would be 25-3, I would have taken it,” Lumberton coach Danny Graham said. “They are a great team. We didn’t play well tonight, but they had a lot to do with it. I give them all the credit.”