Their colorful first names are Jade and Amber, but there is nothing preciously gentle about Southeast Raleigh’s two basketball jewels when the going gets tough.
Jade Phillips scored 23 points and Amber Richardson added 12 to lead Southeast Raleigh to a 46-43 comeback victory over East Wake in a crucial Greater Neuse River 4A Conference game Thursday night on the Warriors’ court.
The Bulldogs are defending champions of the Greater Neuse and remained unbeaten in league play with the win over their perennial rival for the conference crown. Southeast Raleigh improved to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in conference, while East Wake dropped to 3-3 and 1-1.
Southeast has now won 10 straight games in the series with East Wake. The Warriors’ last win over the Bulldogs was Jan. 4, 2011, by a score of 50-42.
“The girls really wanted the game,” said East Wake coach Toni Vick-Dupree. “Going in, they felt really confident about it and were mentally ready for the game. They were upset with the outcome because they had control of the game, but all-in-all we felt we played a great game. We’ve just got to learn to finish in those tight games.”
Phillips is a 5-foot-11 senior guard/forward bound for Syracuse, and Richardson is a 5-11 senior guard/forward bound for N.C. State. They have been playing together since they were seventh-graders.
“They have good height and they’re very athletic,” said Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers. “That’s part of the reason they’re going to Syracuse and N.C. State. You can tell where our senior leadership stepped up.”
The Bulldogs had only scored two points midway through the fourth quarter when Phillips sparked the comeback charge while Southeast trailed 37-35. She was fouled on two possessions going to the basket and hit three of four free throws for a 38-37 lead. East Wake never led again.
“The whole game was played within 1-4 points – it’s probably the tightest game we’ve played with them where they didn’t jump out ahead of us early,” Vick-Dupree said. “We were up 4 points with 4 minutes to go and just made two big, crucial turnovers and they executed off those turnovers. Then we had to end up fouling and they hit some free throws down the stretch.”
On East Wake’s next two possessions, Phillips twice stole the ball off passes. On the first, she went coast-to-coast for a layup. On the second, she dished off to Richardson who was trailing for a layup and the 42-37 lead with 3:07 remaining in the game.
Richardson said she knows to cut to the basket when Phillips has the ball.
“We’ve played together for a long time and we know how to reach each other,” Phillips said.
Senior Kianna Wynn led East Wake with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds despite missing the final two minutes of the second quarter after turning her ankle. Sophomore Tamira Knuckles led the Warriors in scoring with 12 points and junior Angel Rizor added 10.
Southeast Raleigh considered the victory an important bounce-back from a 45-44 non-conference loss to Millbrook on Dec. 9.
“We knew this would be one of our toughest tests,” Meyers said. “East Wake is athletic and well coached. We’re defending our conference championship. We had to come out with a championship mentality.”