The game was neck-and-neck, until Knightdale guard Melody Prichard led a crucial 15-4 scoring drive in the third quarter, which paved the way for a huge 50-45 upset win over the Southeast Raleigh girls basketball team.
Southeast (18-2, 10-1 Greater Neuse River) sat cozily as the conference leader when visiting Knightdale on Tuesday. The game was expected to be a repeat win for the Bulldogs, who triumphed in the two foes’ last meeting on Jan. 6.
But the Knights (14-6, 9-2) were eager to make a team statement, and after settling with a low-scoring first half they came out firing on all cylinders.
“They’re athletic, they play hard, and they’re well-coached,” said Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers. “In a game like this, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I think we came out very passive.”
Prichard, who totaled 17 points on the night, became an offensive nightmare for the Bulldogs in the second half. The sophomore shot a perfect 5-for-5 and rallied her squad to build and maintain a formidable lead.
“We played as a team,” Prichard said. “We used each other and we played to all of our advantages.”
Knightdale point guard and captain Mikaya Wilson, who also scored 17, helped co-pilot the second half attack by creating opportunities in the passing lanes and scoring in transition. Wilson was particularly effective in the third quarter when she on several occasions drove down the lane then dished off to an open teammate inside for the easy score.
Southeast continually fought back to tighten the lead, but Knightdale found a way to answer each momentum shift.
The Bulldogs battled in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Southeast Raleigh’s offense, led by point guard Jada McMillian, managed to narrow the deficit to just four points with five minutes to play.
“When they made a play, we had to be mentally tough and be prepared to make a play after to answer their call,” said Knightdale coach Trent Bunn. “Southeast is a heck of a team and they’re going to bring it at you. We couldn’t fold.”
Prichard and Wilson rose to the challenge, again finding their groove and building their lead back up. The Knights closed out the game by generating a comfortable 9-point lead with three minutes remaining.
“We had to stay well prepared,” Bunn said. “We’ve got a ways to go until we match the tradition and the consistency of Southeast, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
Both teams refused to give up easy shots early in the game and earned a bulk of their points at the free throw line. The first half ended as a low-scoring affair, with Knightdale on top 18-16.
Knightdale’s guards scored 14 of the team’s first-half points. Wilson scored eight by winning drives up the lane and knocking down mid-range jumpers when given space. Prichard had six points at the break mostly due to effective free throw shooting.
The Bulldogs also relied on their guards in the first half, as the bottom of Knightdale’s zone defense refused to allow scoring at the post.
McMillian and guard Kia Abrams led Southeast Raleigh on the scoring front with 11 and 10 points, respectively.