Southeast Raleigh earned a return trip to the NCHSAA 4A state championship game in Chapel Hill next Saturday with a 49-35 eastern regional championship win over Wilmington Hoggard at the Crown Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
With the regional safely tucked away, it didn’t take long for Bulldogs coach Nicole Meyers and her players to turn their attention to a rematch with defending state champion Myers Park.
“For me, getting to play Myers Park again this year is good,” Meyers said. “Not a lot of times you get the opportunity to right your wrongs. We need to seize the moment and come ready to play. We got off to a terrible start last year. Although we showed some fight in the second half, there was just too much for us to overcome.”
Southeast (26-3) came into the Hoggard game looking to up the tempo against the 26-5 Vikings, but struggled early.
“We wanted to push the tempo, but knew at times we had to be more patient,” Meyers said. “Early in the game we settled for jump shots, but we talked about getting the ball inside and when we did it worked. And when we followed that plan in the second and fourth quarters, we were able to play better.”
Hoggard led 9-8 after the first quarter, but the Bulldogs grabbed the lead 16-14 with 3:57 left in the half on a pair of free throws by Amber Richardson and led the rest of the way.
Richardson, the N.C. State recruit who was named tournament MVP, scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Vikings.
Southeast led 32-26 entering the final period but went on a 7-0 run to open the final quarter, building a 39-26 lead with under six minutes to play.
From that point, Southeast got just one basket, a layup by Richardson, but hit eight free throws to maintain a comfortable lead.
Following Richardson, Syracuse recruit Jade Phillips scored 11 and pulled 10 rebounds. Freshman point guard Jada McMillan added nine points and had just one turnover.
“Jada stepped in as a freshman and has been so consistent, so stable for us,” Meyers said. “And she’s been our third leading scorer all year, too.”
Phillips was named all-tournament, along with Hoggard’s Julia Buehler (18 points) and Emma Haywood. Also earning the honors were Broughton’s Kaila Ealey, who scored 29 in the Caps loss to Hoggard, and Athens Drive’s Grace Hunter, who scored 50 in her team’s loss to Southeast.
While Southeast has had strong girls basketball since the school opened, this year’s success was something different for Hoggard.
“We’ve come along way in three years,” Vikings coach Boubacar Aw said. “To get to the state’s final four is quite an accomplishment.”
“This was a tough loss, but it can’t take away from the unbelievable year we had,” Buehler said. Buehler was the only Viking to score in double figures, but Madison Huckabee pulled 14 rebounds.