Jada McMillian didn’t score a single point until the fourth quarter as her Southeast Raleigh girls basketball team faced off against East Wake in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference championship game at Campbell University’s Gore Arena Thursday night, but it didn’t matter. The sophomore point guard’s basket at the buzzer was all that was needed to help the Bulldogs prevail for a thrilling 45-43 win over the Warriors.
In a much-anticipated matchup of the top two teams in the GNRC who split the regular season series, the title game didn’t disappoint as the two rivals went back-and-forth with neither team gaining more than a six-point advantage at any one point.
That point, however, came at the midway point of the fourth quarter as a pair of Mikieja Covington foul shots gave East Wake (22-4) the 41-35 lead.
The Bulldogs (24-3) had no reason to panic however.
“Being down doesn’t necessarily scare us because we know that our defense can get us back into a game,” said Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers. “We just knew that we needed to ratchet it up a little bit more.”
Tamia Hicks blocked a pair of shots in the final minutes and the Bulldogs forced a pair of East Wake turnovers and Southeast Raleigh capitalized on the other end with jump shots from Tamia Davis, McMillian and Hicks herself to get back on level terms.
With the game tied at 43-43, Covington failed to connect from the foul line on a pair of shots as did Angel Rizor on her putback attempt and Southeast chased down the loose ball and held for the final shot.
On the final possession, East Wake’s Tamira Knuckles deflected a pass intended for McMillian at the top of the key but McMillian was able to grab the ball, drive to her right and bank the shot in off the glass over two defenders as time expired.
“I just started to attack the basket with about 10 seconds left,” McMillian said. “I was just trying to get as close to the basket as I could. I didn’t know how much time was left but I could hear the crowd getting louder so I knew I had to get the shot up then even though I was in a crowd.”
Leading by five points at the break, the Warriors weathered a 12-2 run from the Bulldogs and retook the lead by the end of the third quarter thanks to half a dozen points from Knuckles.
Covington led the way in the fourth quarter as the junior began attacking the basket and going to the foul line. Covington scored seven of her team-high 16 points in the final frame. Dajha Williams finished with 10.
East Wake, winners of nine of their last 11 games and the only GNRC team to defeat Southeast Raleigh this season, hopes to put the experience behind them knowing a deep run into the 4A N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs is a definite possibility.
“Like I told the girls, we’re going to have to use this as momentum to go into the playoffs,” East Wake coach Toni Dupree said. “I told them how it felt tonight, that we don’t want to feel that early so we’ve just got to keep the momentum up.”
Kia Abrams finished with 15 points to lead the GNRC regular season and tournament champions while freshman Tamia Davis came off the bench and supplied 13 points to the cause.
GNRC 4A Girls
First Round: Southeast Raleigh 69, West Johnston 31; Rolesville 49, Harnett Central 29; East Wake 59, Clayton 21; Knightdale def. Garner
Semifinals: Southeast Raleigh 54, Rolesville 23; East Wake 55, Knightdale 47
Championship: Southeast Raleigh 45, East Wake 43