Garner Cleveland: Sports

The Southeast Raleigh girls face one of the nation’s best teams in 4A finals.

Reaching the basketball title game has been a the goal of Southeast Raleigh’s girls goal for several seasons. The Bulldogs are now there, playing at 5 p.m. Saturday at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum for the state 4A girls basketball championship.

But a N.C. High School Athletic Association championship is far from a given. Southeast Raleigh faces Charlotte Myers Park (29-1), the top-ranked girls high school basketball team in the country by USA Today.

“I don’t think this team of girls is going to treat this game any differently,” Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers said. “We’re not an overly anxious group. We’re just going to concentrate on playing basketball like we play basketball and not overthink anything.”

Southeast and Myers Park have many similarities. Each has averaged more than 26 wins the past three seasons. Both feature lineups with Division I-committed players. Each are undefeated against North Carolina teams this season.

The Bulldogs’ veteran group, led by senior starters Alexus Hicks, Taiyana Hill and Tiffany McCarter, has improved its offensive consistency this season and can now roll off points in bunches. A 15-0 run turned around their regional championship game against Durham Hillside in a 58-57 win.

Southeast has benefited from the big increase in production of 5-foot-11 junior Jade Phillips, who was named the regional MVP last weekend.

“Jade has earned a big jump in playing time this season,” Meyers said. “Her growth has been a big help, and we need her to continue to play consistently to be at our best.”

Bulldogs’ junior standout Amber Richardson has verbally committed to N.C. State. Saadia Timpton, a four-year starter for Myers Park who averages 10.9 points, will play at Davidson this fall.

The Mustangs returned four of five starters from last season’s lineup, and Nelson is quick to praise her team’s unselfishness, which feeds off of junior guard Aliyah Mazyck, a deft ball handler and scorer (17.0 PPG) and a stellar defender.

Inside, Rydeiah Rogers (a 6-foot-1 junior) averages 16 points and 12.7 rebounds a game. She is the daughter of former Durham Hillside High, Wake Forest and NBA standout Rodney Rogers.

“Mazyck is a high-motor point guard, and Rogers is just a beast, a big post presence: scorer, rebounder, shot blocker, she does it all,” Meyers said. “They’ve had a great team for four years. They’re used to winning. It’s going to just be a dogfight.”