Dec 26, 2012
East Wake won the final quarter of its game against Myers Park 29-15, but that still wasn't enough to climb out of the hole Myers Park dug throughout the course of the first three quarters. The Mustangs (9-0) hung on just long enough to beat the Warriors (5-3) 65-60 and advance to the semifinal of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational Mix 101.5 bracket.
East Wake's all-district forward Tianna Knuckles had a rough go of it in the first half, as the Mustangs kept her off the score sheet before halftime. But, as Knuckles found her game in the second half, so, too, did East Wake.
Knuckles took over the Warrior offense and torched Myers Park for 15 second-half points. Her play helped East Wake go on a 12-0 run that bridged the final two quarters and turned a rout into a contest. It would have taken a near-miracle -- or at least more time -- for East Wake to overcome the 22-point lead Myers Park built preceding that run, though.
The Mustangs started the game on an 8-0 run and never really looked back. They had their way with the Warriors, limiting them to three first-half rebounds and causing several turnovers before they could enter their offensive sets. On offense, Myers Park was getting it done from all over the court. Aliyah Mazyck led all scorers with 21 points while lighting up East Wake from the 3-point line. Forwards Rhydeiah Rogers and Saadia Timpton both registered 13 points by controlling the paint.
"We played pretty good defense early and shared the basketball, I thought, very, very well," Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson said. "When we do that, we're a pretty good team."
East Wake was able to take advantage of Myers Park's foul trouble as the game wore on. East Wake played much of the second half in the bonus, while Timpton fouled out for the Mustangs in the midst of East Wake's furious charge. The Warriors cashed in on free throws while also forcing Myers Park to retreat from its full-court press. As the Mustangs backed off and played man-to-man defense in the final quarter, Knuckles and East Wake had more room to operate and garner good looks near the basket.
East Wake was also able to turn the tables on the glass, corralling 11 offensive rebounds in the second half. Nelson said her team didn't get complacent once it pushed its lead into the 20s, but the difference came at the free-throw line.
"These girls are not a team to get complacent," Nelson said. "I think it was more -- we were sending them to the free-throw line a lot, we didn't rebound, so when we play like that, it's going to be hard to keep a lead."
East Wake's Ciera Williams served as the spark plug for the Warriors from the point guard position and kept East Wake somewhat afloat in the first half. She finished with 10 points and two assists, and fellow guard Daisha Thorpe contributed 14 points of her own.
They elevated their games along with Knuckles as East Wake finally cut the double-digit deficit to single numbers with three minutes remaining in the game. It was at that point where Mazyck and her teammates started telling each other to just stick to what they do best.
"We just said to stay grounded and stay focused -- don't let the lead get to you," Mazyck said. "Just play your game, and don't let them get in your head."
The final score was closer than most expected, but Nelson said East Wake's comeback makes her group a more battle-tested bunch.
The Mustangs will need that experience, too, as they face Dudley in the semifinal Thursday at 3 p.m. at Cary Academy. East Wake will face Rocky Mount at noon.
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