LUMBERTON — Prior to Tuesday’s game against Millbrook, Lumberton coach Danny Graham said his team would need to be exceptional on the defensive end and win the rebounding battle to have a chance against the defending 4-A state champions.
The Lady Wildcats didn’t comply, dominating those two areas en route to earning a 58-33 win in the regional semifinals of the NCHSAA 4-A state playoffs to end Lumberton’s season.
“I thought their defense was great and their rebounding was great,” Graham said. “If you know anything about basketball, that was the difference in the game — rebounding and defense. Give them all of the credit. I thought they played fabulous.”
Behind the play of Andreal Bass and Dazia Powell, third-seeded Millbrook (28-3) controlled the interior throughout the night against the second-seeded Lady Pirates (27-2). The duo matched Lumberton’s point total with 33 combined points and pulled down a majority of the rebounds for the Lady Wildcats.
Millbrook will face top-seeded Southeast Raleigh on Saturday in Fayetteville for the East regional championship.
Bass, a 5-foot-11 center, scored 12 of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter for Millbrook, which led by as many as 30 points in the final period. Powell did most of her damage in the first half, scoring 10 of her 14 points before the break.
“We never could keep them off the boards,” Graham said. “Their rebounding and our inability to get into anything (offensively) were the differences in the game. You have to give them all the credit. We just didn’t play well enough to win, but we had a great season.”
The Lady Pirates were stifled by Millbrook’s pressure defense throughout the night, scoring single digits in three of four quarters. And when the Lady Pirates had opportunities around the basket, they simply couldn’t get the ball to fall through the net.
Jasha Reed scored eight points to lead Lumberton, with Madison Canady adding seven points and London Thompson tallying six.
Leading by nine points at the half, Millbrook sprinted out of the locker room with a 16-2 run to blow the game open. The Lady Wildcats outscored Lumberton 19-9 in the third period, taking a 23-point lead at 38-15 after a layup by Bass midway through the quarter.
Marlena McClure knocked down a jumper to get Lumberton within 17 points early in the fourth period, but the Lady Pirates would get no closer.
Lumberton trailed by four points, 15-11, after a jumper by Jasmine McBride with 4:43 left in the first half, but Millbrook closed the half with a 7-2 spurt, capped with a three-point play by Powell, to take a 22-13 lead into the break.
Despite the bitter ending, Graham didn’t want to take away from what his team has accomplished over the past two seasons. It was a run that saw the Lady Pirates win 52 games and four Southeastern Conference titles.
“We’ve had a great group of kids from the last two years that have got to the Elite 8 two years in a row,” he said. “There are a lot of schools that haven’t done that. (The girls) may be hurting tonight, but they’ll look back on it and say we had a heck of a year.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.