Dec 28, 2012
East Wake received a scare from a pesky Cary Academy team, but the Warriors were able to hold on in overtime to win 69-61 and claim seventh place in the Mix 101.5 Girls Bracket of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational.
East Wake's Kianna Wynn scored two fast-break layups in the opening minute of overtime to push the Warriors ahead, and Cary Academy was never able to catch back up. The Warriors' defensive pressure gave Cary Academy fits, disallowing the chargers to create good opportunities for Mickayla Sanders, who scored 28 points against East Wake and finished with a Holiday Invitational-record 92 points for the week.
From midway through the second quarter through regulation, East Wake never trailed the Chargers. But, an inability to close the game at the free-throw line and late-game heroics by Sanders put the Warriors in jeopardy of a third-straight narrow loss.
East Wake led Cary Academy by six points with a minute-and-a-half to go in the game. That's when Cary Academy started pressing the Warriors, either creating turnovers or sending them to the foul line. East Wake's lead was whittled down to three points after Warriors point guard Ciera Williams hit one of her two free throws with 20 seconds remaining.
Following the second free throw, Sanders went down the court and forced a contested shot that rimmed out, but the Chargers secured possession when the ball bounced off an East Wake player. Cary Academy coach Mike Zeilman called timeout and drew up a play for his go-to player, which he made up on the fly in the huddle.
On the reset, Sanders took the inbounds pass, made a head fake and elevated for a 3-pointer that swished through the hoop with six seconds left on the clock. Her shot knotted the game at 56 and kept the Chargers alive for four more minutes.
"He told everyone to set really good screens, and I went to Cassy (Stafford) because she sets really good screens, and she set the most beautiful screen I've ever seen in my life," Sanders said. "I felt like I really needed to put it in for them, and I really wouldn't have been able to do it without my team."
Preceding the overtime period, East Wake coach Toni Vick stressed to her team that it needed to focus on defense and free throws to pull out the win.
"I'm pretty sure we missed over 20 free throws, so that hurt," Vick said. "We just had to keep our composure and keep playing hard and keep stepping it up on defense."
Cary Academy ran out of steam in overtime, and an athletic East Wake squad was able to get eight fast-break points by pushing the tempo. Wynn finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Tianna Knuckles contributed 14 points of her own. Williams played an instrumental part in pacing the Warriors' fast-paced attack in overtime.
Sanders' 28 points led all scorers, and she also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out three assists. Two of those assists were crisp passes to forward Rebekah Banks, who tallied 13 points for the game.
East Wake's win gave the Warriors their first win of the Holiday Invitational and secured a seventh-place finish. Host Cary Academy was held winless for the week, but Zeilman said his team gained valuable experience as the only private school in the field.
"We know our weaknesses now. Every game exposed something, and we learned a ton," he said. "It's just going to prepare us for our goals of a conference championship and state playoffs."
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