Three area girls’ basketball players were nominated for the McDonald’s American Game.
Millbrook’s senior tandem of forward Dazia Powell, an Old Dominion recruit, and point guard Kai Crutchfield, an N.C. State recruit, were nominated along with Hillside guard Elisia Grissett, a South Carolina recruit.
Powell and Crutchfield led the Wildcats to the 2016 4A title and defeated Grissett and the Hornets in the semifinals.
They said it
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“(The seniors) play a lot of ball outside of practice. They’re always around each other. The seniors last year were the same type of way, but this year’s seniors is a little more special. They got their eyes on the prize.” – Raleigh Charter boys coach Bobby Lyons on his team’s 5-0 start in conference play.
“I keep telling them basketball is like waves. Sometimes you’re going to be on top of the wave. Sometimes you’re going to be under the wave. It’s not the amount of the wave. It’s riding the wave all the way out.” – Riverside girls coach Alicia Jones.
“When we play (Southern) it is always going to be intense. These kids have grown up thinking about playing in the Northern Vance-Southern Vance game. We could play (Southern) five times a year, and there would be the same big crowd in the stands. There is such a build-up from the fans. Everything is about this game.” – Northern Vance boys coach Wilton Baskett on the rivalry with Southern Vance.
A quick look at schools’ boys and girls teams, together.
Franklin Academy: The boys are working on interior play but can hold their own on the perimeter. The girls (7-6, 4-3) have eight underclassmen on the roster and are still adjusting to the skill and speed of high school basketball.
“The offensive plays, they’re starting to run them,” said coach John Noble. “Before, (the players) would kind of run them. Half would run them. At least most of the girls are running the plays now.”
Nash Central: The boys’ team is reveling in the first win at Rocky Mount in at least six years. The girls are standing beside junior scoring leader Robbi Allen, who tore her ACL in the season opener. The injury was Allen’s second ACL of her high school career.
“Right now, we are just trying to help Robbi stay positive,” coach Terri Cash said. “She has put in so much time, effort and energy, so we need to rally behind her. Sometimes, it is not about wins and losses, but about life. When you have adversity, you can’t quit.”
Northern Durham: The girls are still winless, starting two freshmen and a sophomore. Boys coach Ronnie Russell said his team is missing an element – a big man in the middle or an athletic forward who can force it to collapse.
“We don’t have somebody who is a force in there,” Russell said. “The guys we have in there are small and I have a freshman who is still struggling and trying to find his game. At this point, we’ve got to grow up and play big. ... We’ve still got a ways to go and I think we can get there. We’ve got some pieces.”
Northern Vance: The girls are winless but coach Adrine Pettaway is passionate about rebuilding the program. She was a member of the Vikings’ last conference championship squad back in 2001. The boys’ team feels improved, having turned a 22-point loss to rival Southern Vance last month into a 25-point win this month.
“Actually, I feel like this could be one of the best teams I’ve had here,” said 22nd-year head coach Wilton Baskett. “We are really coming along.”
Raleigh Charter: The Phoenix boys and girls must really like their new “home” court at Moore Square Middle School. They played previous seasons farther away at Cary Academy, both 7-2 overall and 5-0 in the North Central Athletic 1A. The girls are in the midst of an important stretch of their schedule with games against River Mill Academy and Roxboro Community coming up.
“We’ve had big leads in games and for some reason lose our focus a little bit,” said girls coach Geoff Huguely. “Luckily we’ve been able to come back in most games and regain it.”
Rocky Mount: Senior Keyanna Spivey scored her 1,000th point this year and is leading the girls. For the second consecutive year, the boys find themselves playing catch-up due to the deep playoff run by the school’s football squad.
“Last year, we didn’t have the answers yet at this time,” said coach Michael Gainey, whose first game wasn’t until Dec. 13. “I feel like we have an idea of what we need to do. We are young, and we are asking a lot of two sophomores up front (Shyheim Battle and Joseph Blue). I feel pretty good about our numbers 1-5 guys, but we need to develop some depth with our 6-7-8 guys. We are going to be OK.”
Southern Vance: The boys’ team is working through shooting woes. The girls are hoping to get back to where they were in the 2000s, when the Raiders used a stifling, full-court pressure defense to overwhelm opponents. Freshman point guard Nashiya Branch has helped usher a return to that this year.
“We are small but mighty,” said Southern head coach Sheila Kearney. “We have to use our quickness. We are still learning because we have a young team with three freshmen. Last year, we had the post players. This year, we have the guards.”
Joe Johnson, Geoff Neville and Andrew Tie contributed.