On a Thursday night when Southeast Raleigh may not have been at its very best, sophomore Jada McMillian got the Bulldogs to overtime and junior Sasha Grey made the winning basket in an exciting 68-66 second-round victory over Durham Riverside in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls’ basketball playoffs.
Southeast (26-3), which lost in the state championship game last season, is the No. 3 in the East and will host Heritage Saturday. No. 11 Heritage upset Wilmington Hoggard, 46-45, on the road.
It was a bitter loss for PAC-6’s Riverside. The Pirates (21-7) gave it their best shot and led practically the entire game. Riverside coach Alicia Jones could not think of a more disappointing loss.
“That hurts more than anything…to be so close,” Jones said. “I think both teams played a heck of a game and I wish Southeast the most success after this. I was proud of my girls. They played their hearts out. And we just got over a tough game with Hillside in our conference tournament, so we came in prepared for this.”
Thursday’s overtime resembled regulation, with Southeast barely staying close enough to have a shot. Riverside led 66-61 with 2 minutes to play. After Kia Abrams hit a free throw for the Bulldogs, Grey, who started but did not score in regulation, cut the lead to 66-64. She then grabbed couple of rebounds off Riverside misses and Abrams tied the score at 66-66 with two free throws with 28 seconds left.
After Riverside missed a shot to take the lead, Danica Lucas drove to the Southeast basket and dished to Grey who scored the game-winner with just 3 seconds to play and Riverside failed to get off another shot.
“For Sasha to play that way in overtime, she needed that as a confidence builder,” Southeast coach Nicole Meyer said. “It was great for her that she could make that important basket.”
Southeast only led briefly in the second quarter before Grey’s dagger. Abrams, a senior who will play at Delaware State next year, kept the Bulldogs in the game with her 25 points.
“We just couldn’t find our rhythm, but give the credit to Riverside, they really played awesome,” Meyer said. “They had us on our heels and that’s not how we typically play. Abrams, though, gave us some extra energy with her defense and offense.
“Finally in the fourth quarter there was a stretch where we got a few turnovers under our basket. We knew we had to take it one possession at a time and get some defensive stops.”
With just over 3 minutes to play in regulation, Southeast trailed 54-48 and went to the free throw line three times, missing all six shots. But Tamia Davis hit a 3-pointer and McMillian drove for a basket and Riverside led 56-53 and Southeast had the ball. After a timeout with 5.5 seconds left, Davis passed the ball inbounds to McMillian in the corner and she swished the 3-pointer to force overtime.
“When Tamia passed the ball they tipped it and (teammate) Mariah (Partin) had to duck because the play was for me to take the shot,” said McMillian, who also hit a shot at the buzzer against East Wake to win the conference tournament last week. “That was a pretty big shot, too.”
But the one Thursday night keeps the Bulldogs season alive.
“We struggled, couldn’t hit our free throws, but we picked up on defense and started executing plays,” McMillian said. “And Sasha had those rebounds and points in overtime, plus she drew the fifth foul on 40 (Ariel Wilson) and that was a good thing too.”
McMillian added 13 points and Davis scored 10. Grey pulled down eight rebounds.
For Riverside, Zaria Rogers led the way with 19, followed by Wilson (15), Ashauntee Nelson (14), and Olshea Hatley (12).
“I really feel sad for our seniors who played so much (Rogers, Ajeya Boggan-Murden, Wilson). Things just didn’t fall our way,” coach Jones said.