Last week Millbrook High School experienced defeat for the first time, falling to rival Leesville Road in the semifinals of the Cap-7 tournament, and senior captain Phillip Burwell said it was hard to go to school the next day.
“A bunch of unwanted questions, like how did we lose?” Burwell said. “A lot of doubters saying maybe we weren’t that good.”
The Wildcats had won 24 games in a row, but that one loss to the Pride had even the most devoted Millbrook fan wondering if the hot start was a fluke. The team knew there was only one way to quiet the doubters - by beating Leesville. Luckily the playoff gods blessed the Wildcats and they got their shot in the second round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs.
Millbrook, the No. 1 seed in the East, got that bad taste out of their mouth, defeating the Pride, 67-63. With the win the Wildcats (25-1) advance to round three on Saturday at home.
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The Wildcats will host Knightdale, who defeated Pine Forest, 79-66.
Burwell led all scorers with 20 points and hit two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining to secure the win. William Felton added 19 and Jalen McCoy returned from an injury to chip in with 18 points for the Wildcats. Pride senior RJ Wilson scored 17 points in his final game, while Jaron Van Hoosier added 16 despite not playing the fourth quarter after being disqualified late in the third. Carter Whitt finished with 15.
Leesville Road missed their last seven shots from the field in the fourth quarter, but still trailed by only two, with the ball when Whitt was called for a five second violation. Burwell, who head coach Chris Davis said was “really upset” after the early exit from the league tournament, stepped to the line and sealed win No. 25.
According to Davis, it was Burwell who came to him last week and said he didn’t want to lose anymore because it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Which was weird being 24-1,” Davis said. “But when a senior gets that mentality, that they are not going to lose, they want to win everything, they are going to do what it takes to win.”
The first 48 hours after Leesville’s 80-61 win last week were the hardest, Burwell said, especially because it was late in the season when it happened. That’s when it hit him that if they lose again his career would be over with.
So Millbrook shook it off, even going to the Cap-7 finals, congratulating Leesville after they won it all by defeating Broughton. All the Wildcats wanted was another shot. So when the brackets were released and Millbrook realized they would play the winner between Leesville and Durham-Riverside, they became the biggest Pride cheerleaders.
“We wanted to show them that even though they beat us once,” Burwell said, “they weren’t going to do it again. Especially on our home floor.”
The Pride did make Millbrook work for it.
Leesville led 52-49 heading into the fourth quarter, and despite shooting 4-11 from the field, gave themselves a chance to win by getting to the free throw line. The Pride got four free throws and the ball back after Wildcats’ forward Nolan Dorsey was called for a technical after fouling out. Leesville hit three of the four free throws, making it a one-point game, 62-61, with 1:43 remaining. A layup by Whitt gave the Pride a 63-62 lead, but Burwell knocked down a jumper on the other end to put the Wildcats ahead two. Millbrook would knock down three free throws the rest of the way for the win. McCoy left the door open, missing two free throws with the Wildcats up 65-63, but Davis was more than happy to have the junior forward back after playing in just 16 games during the regular season.
“Oh gosh, I’ve been waiting for that guy,” Davis said. “His first practice back was Saturday and I told the coaches it was like Christmas Day and you come downstairs and you have a bike with a bow on it.”
When Leesville defeated Riverside on Tuesday, Davis sent a group text to his team. The message was the one they all had been waiting on, confirming they would get another shot at the Pride. Burwell said not one player replied, but nothing needed to be said.
“I know we were all ready,” Burwell said. “We couldn’t wait for (this) game. We were waiting for a while before we got to play again.”
After regrouping, Davis and his team can now focuses on the journey.
“We talk about how much fun it is playing with each other,” Davis “They enjoy being on the same team with each other and the bus rides and team meals and that stuff, so we just don’t want those things to end.”
4A men’s results
No. 9 Knightdale 79, No. 8 Pine Forest 66
No. 5 Holly Springs 67, No. 12 Broughton 52
No. 4 Seventy-First 53, No. 13 Garner 51
No. 3 South Central 83, No. 14 Rolesville 50
No. 11 Pinecrest 54, No. 6 Athens Drive 42
No. 10 Panther Creek 43, No. 7 Hoggard 28,
4A women’s results
No. 1 Wakefield 61, No. 16 Rolesville 22
No. 8 Heritage 61, No. 9 Leesville Road 47
No. 5 Cary 68, No. 21 Middle Creek 46
No. 4 Holly Springs 62, No. 20 Athens Drive 6
No. 3 Laney 48, No. 14 Millbrook 44
No. 6 South Central 78, No. 22 Durham-Riverside 57
No. 7 Pine Forest 55, No. 10 Jordan 54
No. 2 Southeast Raleigh 68, No. Cardinal Gibbbons 25
3A men’s results
No. 1 Hillside 58, No. 16 Terry Sanford 41
No. 25 Southern Nash 65, No. 24 Hunt 52
No. 5 Southern Lee 83, No. 12 Fike 74
No. 6 Westover 71, No. 11 South Johnston 54
No. 23 Northwood 37, No. 7 East Wake 35
No. 2 Northern Nash 67, No. 18 Dudley 64
3A women’s results
No. 1 E.E. Smith 67, No. 16 Rocky Mount 27
No. 9 Person 49, No. 8 East Wake 42,
No. 4 Hillside 69, No. 13 Havelock 63
No. 7 Hunt 60, No. 23 Southern Durham 50
2A men’s results
No. 1 Farmville Central 92, No. 16 St. Pauls 44
No. 9 Kinston 59, No. 25 Southwest Edgecombe 45
No. 4 Vance County 55, No. 13 Spring Creek 29
No. 19 Carrboro 82, No. 3 Goldsboro 72
No. 2 Green Central 82, No. 15 South Granville 58
2A women’s results
No. 1 Farmville Central 85, No. 17 Whiteville 47
No. 8 Vance County 55, No. Randleman 29
No. 4 NCSSM 55, No. 13 North Lenoir 44
No. 3 Kinston 61, No. 14 Roanoke Rapids 44
1A men’s results
No. 24 Chatham Central 68, No. 8 Pamlico County 60,
No. 5 Granville Central 60, No. 12 Riverside 52
No. 3 Northwest Halifax 90, No. 19 Rocky Mount Prep 72
No. 11 Voyager Academy 70, No. 27 Roxboro Community 68
No. 2 Henderson Collegiate 75, No. 18 Louisburg 35
1A women’s results
No. 5 Vance County 68, No. 12 Northampton County 64
No. 4 Chatham Central 61, No. 13 Henderson Collegiate 45
No. 7 Princeton 59, No. 10 Raleigh Charter 30