MILLBROOK GIRLS TOP HILLSIDE TO MOVE TO 4A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
By: Evan Moesta
The Hillside Hornets entered the 4A Girls Basketball Regionals with a record of 28-1, their only blemish coming at the hands of Millbrook High School in the team’s second game of the season. Coach Ovester Grays took that 27 game winning streak down south to Fayetteville, NC to face Chris East’s Millbrook Wildcats in a game of runs that would come down to the wire.
It was all Millbrook early on as Dazia Powell took the opening tip to the cup for two, then Jaleesa Dillard added five quick points with a banked-in basket in the lane, and a three point play with 5:22 left in the first to put the Wildcats up 7-0. Hillside’s Ja’Mia Johnson would put her team on the board with 4:34 left in the first with a pair of made free throws. L’Donnisty Granison would make it 13-6 Wildcats with under two minutes to play in the opening frame but two quick fouls from Granison allowed Hillside to close out the quarter on a 6-2 run to cut it to 15-12.
Millbrook shot lights out from the field in the first half (6-8 FG, and 3-3 FT in the first quarter alone), and it was enough to sustain more of Hillside’s comeback as the Hornets answered every Wildcat basket with one of their own to keep things within two possessions. Elisia Grissett responded to a three from Millbrook’s Jaleesa Dillard with one of her own late in the second quarter to send the teams into their Crown Arena locker room’s with the Wildcats ahead 32-25.
The third quarter was one filled with fouls, and Millbrook attempts to take a double digit lead. Three separate times, the Wildcats would inflate the lead to nine points but they were never able to get past that until the 34.1 second mark of the third. The possession in which Domonique Cross’ layup allowed Millbrook to take a 45-34 lead came on the heels of an Ovester Gray technical foul that sent Kai Crutchfield to the line for two free throw makes.
Just like a handful of regional games from across the state on Saturday, a late fourth quarter comeback would make things interesting. With one of their program’s all-time leading scorers, Elisia Grissett in foul trouble, Hillside would manage to mount a comeback to get within one possession of Millbrook. Jakelbi Lewis took advantage of two Wildcat traveling calls with 6:22 left in the game by downing a corner three to cut it to 45-38, then a Michaela Thompson three 39 seconds later made it a 45-42 game forcing Millbrook to call timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Grissett committed her fifth foul of the game, ending her night with 12 points and 6 rebounds. The Hornets had seemingly dodged a bullet as Dillard missed both free throws that followed the foul, but the second shot landed in the hands of Millbrook’s Dazia Powell who put it back up for the score with 5:31 remaining. Powell, a junior had 10 points and 2 rebounds on the night and fouled out after playing 16 minutes. Zairya West was another of a handful of Millbrook guards in foul trouble on Saturday night, she came in for Powell with 4:59 remaining, and four fouls under her belt. With 3:13 to play she tallied her only field goal of the contest to put the Wildcats ahead 51-46.
Following that score, the “free throw game” begun and despite shooting 11-14 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, Hillside was unable to come out on top as Kai Crutchfield and Zairya West hit their shots when it mattered late in the game to seal the 58-51 victory.
Jaleesa Dillard’s 10 first half points were still enough to lead the team in scoring along with Dazia Powell who registered 10. Junior’s Andreal Bass, and Kai Crutchfield finished a close second with 9, and Coach East saw senior’s Domonique Cross, and L’ Donnisty Granison each score 8. Crutchfield, a North Carolina State commit led her team in rebounding with 6 points. Hillside was paced by Jakelbi Lewis would knock down a pair of three’s and ten free throws to finish with a game high 16. Grissett followed her with 12, and Michaela Thompson dropped 10 for the Hornets, whose season ends with a record of 28-2, and a regular season conference championship.
With the win, Millbrook advances to their fourth 4A Girls State Championship in the last six seasons. Between 2011-2013, the Wildcats reached three consecutive championship games, winning it all in 2012, and 2013. They carry a 29-2 record into the Dean E. Smith Center next Saturday to face Northwest Guilford who topped Southwest Guilford in Greensboro 58-41.