Two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter with a 35-point lead, the Neuse Christian Academy girls basketball team scored its most important basket of the night.
The Lions bench and fans roared as Rebeka Weaver, the lone senior on Senior Night, hit a layup – her only points of the night – in the 73-32 win over Sanford’s Grace Christian.
“It was amazing,” Weaver said. “It was a great feeling having my teammates cheer for me.
“I have the best group of girls I ever could’ve wished for.”
Despite normally coming off the bench, Weaver received the customary Senior Night start, and it was clear her team wanted to send her off with a memorable win.
“She comes off the bench but you see how motivational these people are,” said Neuse Christian coach Shane Wilder. “The girls really, really love her.”
After leading the first quarter by just one point, the Lions dominated the second quarter and led by 18 at the half. They continued to tighten the defense, allowing just five points in the second half.
Sophomore Izabela Leite led a huge run early in the second quarter to tilt the momentum in Neuse Christian’s favor. She hit an early three, and then completed a touch pass to Mack Wilder for a fast break layup. On the two following possessions, Leite hit two more long balls, one from the right corner and the next on a transition pull up at the top of the arc to put the Lions up 14.
Three who mattered
Maria Albiero, Neuse Christian: Albiero led all scorers with 23 points, and she didn’t even score in the fourth quarter. Albiero played at the top of her team’s zones and frequently harassed opposing ball handlers into turnovers. But she showed more than fast break layups in her scoring arsenal; Albiero also used a deft eurostep and soft midrange touch to score.
Sarah Kelly, Grace Christian Sanford: Kelly was Grace Christian’s lone double-digit scorer with 12 points. She had 10 in the first quarter, which prompted Shane Wilder to reconfigure his defense.
“Their post play was super,” Shane said. “We were running a 3-2 (zone) and went down to a 2-3 and started to shut down their post.”
Izabela Leite, Neuse Christian: Leite scored 13 points, but her biggest contribution to the night was her passing ability. With the game out of reach already in the fourth quarter, Wilder put Leite in to help Weaver get her first field goal of the night.
“He put me on the court and he said no more points. No more three points and no more layups,” Leite said. “Pass the ball to Beka.”
After retrieving a loose ball at one end of the court, she calmly dribbled upcourt and found Weaver open for the layup.
By the numbers
1: Neuse Christian held just a one-point lead after the first quarter but won the game by 41. It also allowed just one point in the final quarter to Grace Christian.
8: Held balls throughout the game. There were a lot of 50-50 balls after missed shots, and both teams constantly battled for possession.
10: Steals by Neuse Christian in the third quarter. The Lions outscored the Crusaders 22-4 in that quarter, pushing the lead to 36.
Out of bounds
Neuse Christian sophomore Mack Wilder, Shane’s daughter, topped 1,000 points in her career with her final field goal in the third quarter. She scored 20 on the night, putting her at 1,001 points in her varsity career, which started in seventh grade.
“She’s averaging about 11, 12 a game,” Shane said. “She needed 19 to do it tonight. I was really, really proud they rallied behind to make that happen for her.”