Millbrook and Southeast Raleigh’s girls and Leesville Road and South Central’s boys will play Saturday for a spot in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A basketball championships, which will be March 11 at either N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum or UNC’s Dean Smith Center.
Kestrel Heights’ boys and Roxboro Community’s girls will play for spots in the 1A title games.
The East finals are split between Fayetteville State University and nearby Methodist University. Tickets are $9.
At Methodist University
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1A boys: 9-Riverside (Williamston) vs 1-Kestrel Heights, noon
By far the most intriguing storyline entering this “final four” is how Kestrel Heights (30-1) will respond to learning that this is its last season for at least three seasons.
In some ways, it should be no different from any other senior-laden team that doesn’t have a “next season” to look forward to. But it still has the potential to be demoralizing, or maybe it has the opposite effect: Maybe Kestrel adopts an “us against the world” mentality.
The last team to play in a championship knowing that it was the last year was Williamston’s girls basketball team, which finished runner-up in 2010 before being consolidated into Martin County’s Riverside High. It just so happens Riverside (24-3) is Kestrel’s opponent.
1A girls: 4-Pamlico County vs 2-Roxboro Community, 2 p.m.
Roxboro Community (27-3) eked out a close 59-56 win in the previous round, its only close result of the playoffs. The Bulldogs lost in the 1A East final last year and are led by junior Elana Ingram and senior Mya Johnson. Pamlico (24-3) has lost just once to 1A competition, while Roxboro hasn’t lost to any.
2A girls: 5-Bartlett Yancey vs 2-Clinton, 4 p.m.
Clinton’s Mikayla Boykin is worth the price of admission. The Duke recruit is averaging 38.1 points, 14 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 5.8 steals per game for the Dark Horses (27-2). Bartlett Yancey (23-6) has only lost to 3A and 4A teams.
4A girls: 3-Millbrook vs 1-Southeast Raleigh, 6 p.m.
It should surprise no one that the 4A East final comes down to Millbrook (28-3) and Southeast Raleigh (31-0). This will be the seventh straight season that one of these two teams has gone to the title game. Millbrook is last year’s defending champ and Southeast Raleigh was runner-up the previous two years.
Southeast Raleigh is nationally-ranked entering the contest, and the Bulldogs remember that Millbrook knocked them out of the fourth round of last year’s playoffs. Only Jada McMillian averages double figures and East Carolina recruit Tamia Hicks only scores 4.9 per game.
Millbrook’s Wildcats returned mostly everyone from last year’s run, including five who have signed to play in college: Zairya West (Norfolk State), Kai Crutchfield (N.C. State), Dazia Powell (Old Dominion), Andreal Bass (Lenoir-Ryhne) and Sis Norman (Morehead State).
Crutchfield (11.8 points per game) and Bass (10) lead the Wildcats’ scoring.
At Fayetteville State
2A boys: 2-Northside (Jacksonville) vs 1-Greene Central, noon
Greene Central (25-1), led by super sophomore Imaje Dodd, has been dominant this year, even defeating powerhouse Kinston three times, including a 66-26 thumping in the regulat season. Northside (27-0) likes to run and is averaging 79.2 points per game.
4A boys: 17-Leesvile Road vs 2-South Central, 2 p.m.
South Central (27-1) and Leesville Road (21-9) have coaches who have led their teams to title games before. In 2011, Leesville’s Russ Frazier was at Northwood, which was runner-up in the 2A title. That same year, Chris Cherry was guiding his Falcons to a 3A runner-up finish.
Leesville has a “team of destiny” feel to it. The Pride have won four games by single digits, all on the road. Senior point guard Alex Hunter is a Furman recruit, though sophomore Jalen Benjamin gives the Pride two ball handlers. Hunter and swingman Jonathan Mebane are the school’s all-time leading scorers.
South Central is allowing just 40.8 points per game. Sophomore Shykeim Phillips is the Falcons’ top player. South Central has already downed three Wake County schools in these playoffs: Athens Drive, Apex and Green Hope.
3A girls: 2-Jacksonville at 1-Northern Guilford, 4 p.m.
Northern Guilford (29-1) is led by N.C. State recruit Elisa Cunane (20.3 points, 12.6 rebounds). Jacksonville (29-1) is impeccably balanced, with six players averaging 7.2 points or more per game.
3A boys: 16-Northern Guilford vs 3-Eastern Guilford, 6 p.m.
Eastern Guilford (28-3) won the Mid-State 3A Conference tournament and regular season but split with Northern Guilford (19-9).