Millbrook’s perfect record was challenged. Why the coach says that was needed.

Millbrook edges Leesville Road, 67-60, to remain unbeaten.

Millbrook head coach Chris Davis talks about why he is glad his team played in a tight game Friday night, Feb. 1, 2019.
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Millbrook head coach Chris Davis talks about why he is glad his team played in a tight game Friday night, Feb. 1, 2019.

Millbrook and Leesville Road were tied at 45 heading into the fourth quarter of Friday night’s Cap-7 showdown.

The Pride, beaten by 41 in the previous meeting, had the perfect Wildcats on the ropes. Leesville Road went at Millbrook for as long as they could, but the Wildcats remained undefeated (21-0, 9-0) after some clutch baskets down the stretch, hanging on for a 67-60 win.

Millbrook’s average margin of victory in conference play has been 24.7 points. The seven-point win over Leesville (9-11, 4-5) was the closest conference win since they beat Southeast Raleigh by 12 on Jan. 25. The single-digit deficit win was just the third time that’s happened this season.

It was the first time in a long time that Millbrook was pushed and the first time in conference play. After the game Wildcats head coach Chris Davis said his team needed to play in that type of game.

“Gosh, yes. Gosh, yes,” Davis responded when asked if his team needed a game like that. “People think when you win so many games that you want to win by one hundred. Leesville has a really good team. The first game we got our pace, so I knew they were going to come over ready to go. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game.”

The Pride outscored the Wildcats in the second (19-14) and third (18-13) quarters, and tied the game midway through the fourth before Millbrook senior Phillip Burwell (13 points) hit a three from the corner. That was followed by a clutch performance from the line from guard Isaiah Lewis (14 points), who went 7-for-8 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Going through the Cap-7 a second time, every game has been tougher than the first, Davis pointed out. The math backs up that theory. Through the first five Cap-7 games, Millbrook won by an average of 34 points. Once they played teams the second time around, the Wildcats have won their last four game by an average of 13.2 points. Still a nice margin, but it proves Davis’ point that teams are playing Millbrook tighter the second time around.

“It’s a good thing,” Davis said. “We need to see that. When we get into the playoffs, it helps you to have games like that. It helps to have tight situations so you can know how to fight out to fight out of them.”

Beating teams by 30 points, Davis added, makes it hard to simulate a situation like a tight game in practice. Against the Pride, Millbrook had to deal with guys in foul trouble -- Burwell picked up three in the first half -- and Leesville making their shots. Millbrook is a team that likes to get up and down the floor, but the Pride forced them to slow the game down a bit, getting away from their traditional run-and-gun style.

Davis admits they love to run, but he likes a game -- occasionally -- where they have to gut it out.

“There are so many things I’ve already gotten in me head for (the next) practice,” Davis said. “We have to get back to work, we have to keep pounding.”

Davis did learn something about his group in the tight contest, something that he actually already knew -- that he has a team that’s going to battle, calling his team “a bunch of junkyard dogs.”

“I know I’ve got seniors who are going to get in there and battle,” Davis said. “I’ve got a sophomore William Felton (14 points, 14 rebounds), who is going to fight and scratch and claw for every rebound, he’s going to battle. I’ve got Sam Hood, who’s going to fight.”

Hood finished with four points, but his dunk, while drawing a foul, late in the fourth quarter was the spark the team needed.

“It got us going,” Davis said. “It was such an aggressive move and for him to attack the basket like that, I was happy to see it. It was definitely a hype thing.”

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.