Their self-titled “Championship Week” proved to be a bountiful success, but bigger treasures might await the Southeast Raleigh Bulldogs.
Needing two key road victories this week to put themselves in position for a ninth consecutive Greater Neuse River 4A basketball crown, the Bulldogs got the job done in resounding fashion Friday night, concluding with a 54-45 decision at East Wake.
Three days earlier, the Bulldogs (19-3, 11-1), attempting to break a three-way tie atop the conference standings, opened their quest with a triumph at Knightdale. Their surge continued with a fourth-quarter flurry Friday after the Warriors (18-3, 10-2), trailing most of the way, had rallied to take the lead.
“We played two great teams and were able to get victories in hostile territory,” said Southeast Raleigh coach Nicole Meyers, whose team is coming off back-to-back state runner-up finishes. “We have a lot of young players, and games like this give them experience for what the playoffs are going to be like. It’s not going to be easy.”
Southeast Raleigh closed out the varsity sweep with a buzzer-beating, 46-44 boys’ thriller over East Wake as guard Dominic Foy sank a 22-footer with two seconds remaining.
In the girls’ showdown, the Bulldogs used their speed and defensive intensity to move ahead by as many as eight points during the first half. Southeast Raleigh turned several turnovers into transition baskets, and East Wake appeared to be struggling before clawing to within 28-25 at intermission.
The second half was played more to East Wake’s preferred half-court pace as both teams moved back into zone defenses. The Warriors were able to get the ball inside to Cincinnati signee Angel Rizor, and her leaner at the 1-minute, 12-second mark of the third quarter put East Wake ahead 36-35.
The Warriors led by as many as three points during the fourth quarter before Southeast Raleigh finally opened things up with a 10-0 spurt that featured six points from senior Kia Abrams, who will continue her career at Delaware State.
“We just didn’t want to lose,” Abrams said. “We had worked so hard for this week. We pulled all of our fire together. After the great start to the week, we had to finish it off right.”
East Wake would pull within 47-44 with 1:28 remaining, but Abrams answered with a stickback 16 seconds later. Southeast Raleigh converted five free throws during the final minute to wrap up the conquest.
“We were able to get ahead (in the second half), but we started rushing things too much” on offense, said Rizor, who paced the Warriors with 19 points. “We tried to force things and ended up doing some unnecessary things instead of just playing our game.”
Southeast Raleigh has only two upperclassmen on its roster –Abrams and Mariah-Chanel Partin. Those performers combined for 32 points – 18 from Abrams and 14 from Partin.
“We stressed to our seniors that this is the time that we needed to rely on them,” Meyers said. “Some of our players haven’t been in these types of situations before, so it’s up to our seniors to carry us. And they did that (Friday). You’ve got to have some grit to win games like we did this week. I think we showed that grit.”
The Bulldogs can wrap up an outright league title with victories Tuesday at home against Harnett Central and Friday at Clayton.
“We are not even thinking about losing either one of those games,” Meyers said. “We want to win both and get that ninth (conference championship) in a row.”
Southeast Raleigh’s sweep seemed unlikely when the Bulldogs fell behind by as many as nine points in the third quarter of the boys’ contest.
The Bulldogs were ahead by one point late, only to see East Wake move back ahead at 44-43 on a coast-to-coast layup by Jalen Vick at the 10-second mark.
Southeast Raleigh pushed the ball upcourt before point guard Devion Gulley found Foy alone near the top-right portion of the 3-point arc.
Foy, a left-hander, didn’t pause before lifting his shot, which swished through the net for the game-winner.
“Devion made a nice move toward the basket, and I just stepped into the open spot,” Foy said. “It’s funny because that is exactly what we had been working on in practice. I wouldn’t have been able to knock down that shot if Devion hadn’t made that nice pass. The coaches just trusted us and let us run the play. It worked out perfectly.”
Southeast Raleigh (13-9, 4-8) got 11 points apiece from John Baker and Malik Ford, and East Wake (10-10, 5-7) was led by Drew Carroll’s 13 points.