One can only hope Saturday’s East regional finals can come close to matching the drama from Tuesday’s fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association basketball playoffs.
Garner’s boys saw a 19-point lead vanish before holding off Millbrook 92-88.
Cary’s boys appeared done, but rallied from down 16 in the fourth quarter to win 58-49 in overtime, a 33-8 run.
Farmville Central’s boys won on a buzzer-beater to top Burlington’s Cummings High.
Southeast Raleigh’s girls and Millbrook went back-and-forth before Millbrook prevailed 51-47.
Here are a few things to know about the NCHSAA’s “final four” round games.
Did the format have an effect?: This was the first year in decades that the fourth round of the playoffs was held at the higher seed and not on a neutral court (though some teams did move games to nearby gyms to accommodate larger crowds.
In 2014, the lower seed won six fourth-round boys basketball games. In 2015, that number was four.
Tuesday night, only one lower seed, out of 16 games, won on the road in the fourth round of the boys basketball playoffs – Winston-Salem Prep at Avery County.
Coliseum vs Arena: The Crown Complex in Fayetteville is ideal for regional finals. The 10,000-seat Crown Coliseum sits across the parking lot from the smaller Crown Arena (about 3,000 seats).
For the most part, the 2A and 1A have played at the arena and the 4A and 3A finals have been in the coliseum. But this year, Hillside and Millbrook’s 4A girls game will be in the arena and the 2A boys game between Farmville Central and Elizabeth City’s Northeastern will be in the coliseum.
Cary in the clutch: You don’t get to 30-1 without great performances in crunch time. Cary’s boys have won three times in overtime in their last 14 games, a stretch that includes a four-point win against Leesville Road in the third round of the playoffs.
Garner rolls: Garner’s boys are averaging 86.3 points per game this season and 89.3 in the playoffs. The Trojans have not scored fewer than 71 in a game this year and have won 28 of 29 games following an 82-78 loss to Cary in the second game of the season.
Hillside’s streak: The Hillside girls have been dominant, winning 27 straight games in which only three of those (two to Southeast Raleigh and a playoff win against Green Hope) were decided by single digits.
The Hornets’ streak started after its only loss of the year on Nov. 28 to Millbrook. Next up? Millbrook.
Millbrook still unbeaten in N.C.: Rather than stay local during winter break, the Millbrook girls went to Myrtle Beach to play some of the top teams from other states. The Wildcats went 1-2 in those games, but have not lost to anyone in North Carolina.
The Wildcats lost 10 games in the 2009-10 season and have lost 12 games in the six seasons since.
Voyager’s schedule pays off: Voyager Academy, a charter school in Durham, played a challenging nonconference schedule and it paid off Tuesday when the Vikings took out defending 1A champion East Carteret. The Mariners had won 47 straight home games.
The Vikings played three 4A teams in nonconference and Ravenscroft twice, going 1-4 against those teams.
NCAC strength: The North Central Athletic 1A flexed its muscle in the basketball playoffs. Durham’s Kestrel Heights fell 67-58 to Robersonville’s South Creek, but the Roxboro Community girls and Voyager boys advanced.
Mid-State 3A strength: Conference foes Eastern Alamance and Northern Guilford will play one another in the girls 3A East final. Eastern Alamance’s boys are also in the boys’ 3A East final.
EASTERN REGIONAL FINAL SCHEDULE
at Crown Coliseum
4A boys #1 Cary (30-1) vs. #2 Garner (29-2) - noon
2A boys #1 Farmville Central (26-0) vs. #3 Northeastern (27-2) - 2 p.m.
3A girls #12 Northern Guilford (24-7) vs. #15 Eastern Alamance (27-3) - 4 p.m.
3A girls #1 Eastern Alamance (29-1) vs. #2 Terry Sanford (28-1) - 6 p.m.
at Crown Arena
1A girls #1 Roxboro Community (30-2) vs. #2 Plymouth (28-1) - noon
1A boys #5 Voyager Academy (30-4) vs. #6 South Creek (23-4) - 2 p.m.
2A girls #1 East Bladen (31-0) vs. Winner of North Pitt/T.W. Andrews 4 p.m.
4A girls #1 Hillside (28-1) vs. #2 Millbrook (28-2) - 6 p.m.