Thursday’s basketball games between Heritage and Millbrook already had Cap-8 Conference title implications, but with the Huskies sweeping their head-to-head championship meetings last week in the John Wall Holiday Invitational, the rivalry has never been hotter.
The Millbrook girls avenged a championship game loss, downing the Huskies 54-51.
In the nightcap, N&O No. 1 Heritage needed overtime, but got the job done, finishing off No. 3 Millbrook 69-60 on the back of Jayden Gardner’s 28-point, 21-rebound performance.
“We’ve never won here before and we just want to keep making history,” Gardner said. “We went to OT and finished.”
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Heritage had a fast start and a strong finish, but Millbrook reclaimed its spot as the top team in Wake County, setting the tempo for the majority of the night and having a 27-18 advantage on the glass.
“We knew Heritage was one of the best teams in the state and we played better defensively … but we still have a lot of work to do,” Millbrook coach Chris East said. “To me, all games are important in conference and we got one we needed to have.”
The Wildcats’ biggest run came in a 19-point third quarter. Millbrook only scored 17 points in the first half.
“We decided to run the play the coaches called, it’s kind of nice when we do that. They responded,” East said.
Kai Crutchfield and Dazia Powell led the Wildcats in scoring, combining for 28 points. Sisalynn Norman had seven points and seven rebounds and Andreal Bass added seven points and nine boards.
Heritage had three players score double-digit points in Cydney Johnson (19), Demi Washington (13) and Alcenia Purnell (11).
With its John Wall Holiday Invitational win not counting towards the Cap-8 standings, Heritage (14-0, 6-0) officially took sole control of first from Millbrook.
“They better (play with a chip on their shoulders). This is the first time we haven’t been the hunted, which is fine either way, it’s nice to be the hunter and not the hunted,” Millbrook Scott McInnes said.
The Huskies started off firing on all cylinders, dominating the full-court game and taking a double-digit lead in the third quarter, but the Wildcats clawed their way back, winning the fourth quarter 15-7 to tie things up.
“I think there at the end that we could’ve gone into the hole, but we stuck with it,” Heritage coach Tilden Brill said. “I think our mental toughness there at the end … and that really sticks out to me.”
Millbrook was able to neutralize Virginia Tech recruit Jarren McAllister, who scored eight points on 15 field goal attempts, but couldn’t stop Colton Reed, who went 6 for 10 from 3, and Gardner.
“We were struggling to get our big man the ball so he went and got it himself off the rebound, and finished around the rim,” Brill said.
Jordan Whitfield, who struggled in the first half, kept shooting in the second half to spur the Millbrook comeback attempt. He finished with 29 points on 26 field goal attempts.
“Whitfield is my guy. He’s my guy, so he’s going to keep shooting,” McInnes said. “He and Patrick are my shooters, so we’re going to win with those kids and lose with those kids and they’re going to keep getting better. Keep shooting, that’s what shooters do.”
With McAllister slashing to the rim, Reed firing from behind the arc and Gardner dominating the paint, the Huskies can beat you in a variety of ways.
“It’s huge to put ourselves in that position. I’ve told our guys, ‘These games and early January are going to dictate where we fall in February … and we can’t leave any stone unturned,” Brill said.