Dec 27, 2012
Just two minutes were left in the third quarter, and East Wake was well on its way to blowing out Rocky Mount. The Warriors held a 20-point lead and were in the midst of a 33-9 run, which Rocky Mount appeared to have no answer for.
But, basketball is a game of runs, and the Gryphons were just waiting for their opportunity to go on a tear of their own. That run came when Rocky Mount forward J'kyra Brown decided to take over the game. Brown led her team on a 25-5 streak to close regulation, and her free throw with 6.5 seconds left knotted the game at 50 to force overtime.
Brown, who scored nine of her 32 points in the overtime period, kept the pedal to the floor, leading Rocky Mount to a 61-58 win against East Wake in the consolation bracket of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational Mix 101.5 Girls bracket.
"The past couple games, I've just been laid back and not going after it," Brown said. "But there was a point in time where I was like, 'Man, I've got to keep attacking, just keep attacking.'"
Brown actually had a chance to win the game for the Gryphons in regulation. She went to the line with 6.5 seconds remaining, where she swished the first one before East Wake called timeout. Her second attempt rimmed out, forcing the Gryphons to complete their miraculous comeback in overtime.
When Brown was given a second chance to net a game-winner, she didn't let it slip away.
Although Rocky Mount jumped out in overtime and took the lead, East Wake rallied and snatched the lead back when Tianna Knuckles registered a steal and a layup with 30 seconds to go. But, fewer than 10 seconds after her basket, Brown corralled an offensive rebound on the other end and put it back up to score the game-winning basket.
"We pulled it through," Brown said. "It was ugly -- it was ugly, but we came back."
Though the Gryphons eventually prevailed, the contest was nearly a rout just 10 minutes before the final buzzer. East Wake, led by Knuckles' 14 points and another 16 from Shakerria Morrison, dominated the game in the middle two quarters. The Warriors' point guard Ciera Williams led a fast-paced attack that hammered away at the Gryphon defense. On the other end, Rocky Mount failed to move the ball and create open opportunities for Brown.
As the game wore on, Rocky Mount coach Pam Gainey stressed that her team can't give up on the game plan. When the Warriors appeared to run out of gas, Rocky Mount's traditional up-tempo style started to systematically chop away at the lead.
The Gryphons received a huge boost from forward Kelsey Daniels. The senior scored on four different offensive rebound putbacks in the fourth quarter to lift her team when it was struggling the most. She finished with 12 points and six rebounds, and Rocky Mount wouldn't have been able to turn the game around without her dominance on the glass.
"She's been in foul trouble the last couple games, so she hasn't really played the last three games or so," Gainey said. "But she came up huge on those offensive rebounds and putbacks.
"She motivates us. I think it's a situation where we probably have more confidence in her than she does in herself, so anytime she does those things that we think she's capable of doing, it just gives us an adrenaline rush."
Gainey said that Brown always has a green light to find her offense, which was apparent when she took over the game as time wound down.
"She's a good kid; she's truly got the interest of the team at heart," Gainey said. "She's unselfish even to a fault, but she's got the green light. The kids believe in her, and you can see why -- she can get it done."
Brown's 32 points led all scorers. Rocky Mount point guard Carmen Richardson finished with 13 points, including two momentum-swinging baskets in the third quarter and in overtime.
The Gryphons move on to play Holly Springs at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Cary Academy for fifth place.
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