Wednesday’s HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational championship clash between the No. 3 Hillside Hornets and Southeast Raleigh Bulldogs should be must-see basketball. and for each team, their motivation to win are clear.
For the Hornets, they’re looking to capture the title that eluded them by only one point in last year’s championship against Durham’s Riverside. For the Bulldogs – who are making their first trip to the final since 2010 – it’s to earn a trophy in honor of former teammate Kari Watson, who was killed last Wednesday.
Hillside 54, Williamston’s Riverside 42: Hillside never trailed in its semifinal, defeating Williamston’s Riverside 54-42, largely in part to the play of Elisia Grissett, who led the team with 25 points and 13 rebounds. However, the biggest effect Grissett had was off the stat sheet, finishing off countless fast breaks on her own and dishing passes to her teammates under the basket.
“We knew we could outrun them; we sprint a lot in practice,” Grissett said. “Then in the game we sprint up and down the court, and they can’t run with us.”
Standing at 6-foot-2, injuries forced Grissett to take on a “point-forward” role, one that coach Ovester Grays was happy to see her excel in.
“Our point guard was out for the second game, and (Grissett) did a great job running the team, getting them into sets and helping the team any way she could,” Grays said.
Off to an 11-1 start this year – including a regular season revenge victory against Durham’s Riverside – the Hornets aren’t ready to see the hot run simmer down.
“Needless to say, they’re not used to losing many things, they all remember the one-point loss to (Durham’s) Riverside, and that stuck with them,” Grays said. “I’ve heard them talk a lot in the past couple days about not wanting to come in second again.”
Southeast Raleigh 40, Winston-Salem Prep 34: It seemed nothing could go right in the first three quarters for No. 2 Southeast Raleigh, who didn’t take its first lead until 3:46 remained in the third period, which it held for just a few seconds. Trailing Winston-Salem Prep 24-22 heading into the final quarter, the coaching staff made an adjustment.
“We went to one of our full-court presses, and that was a game-changer,” Southeast coach Nicole Meyers said.
The defensive switch also improved their offense, as the Bulldogs went on to score 18 in the quarter — 12 of which came from point guard Jada McMillan, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
“Jada is a very low-key kind of person, but she’s very competitive, she does not want to lose,” Meyers said. “When it comes down to clutch moments, she’s going to be the one to give us clutch plays.”
“Everything was moving so fast,” McMillan said. “We want to get that trophy for Kari … we’re playing hard.”
McMillan will square off with Grissett in the championship, a match-up that isn’t unfamiliar to either players.
“We’re teammates on AAU,” McMillan said. “I know what she does, we’re going to have to stop her from scoring on us.”
After facing a non-traditional foe in Winston-Salem Prep, Meyers is ready for her undefeated Bulldogs to play against an N&O area team in the final.
“The games between us (and Hillside) historically are always dog fights,” Meyers said. “We’re looking forward to a very entertaining championship game.”
Other Holiday Invitational Scores
Ravenscroft 66, Apex 58: The Cougars were outscored 35-23 in the second half of play after holding a 35-31 lead at the half. Apex’s Elle Hepburn led all scorers with 24 points in the losing effort. Madison Taylor scored 11 of her 18 points in the second half to lead the Ravens.
North Pitt 53, Durham’s Riverside 52: With 10 seconds left, TyQuishia Gainer stole an inbounds pass and hit a layup to give the Panthers a win.
USports Round Robin Bracket
East Wake 54, Jordan 49: East Wake pulled away in the fourth quarter largely in part to the clutch play of Angel Rizor, who scored eight of her 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Leesville Road 67, Trinity Christian 48: Leesville scored 43 points in the second half to stay undefeated in the round robin bracket. Shea Plocharczyk scored all 15 of her points from behind the arc for the Pride and Alex Scruggs led all scorers with 33 points for the Crusaders.