Northern Guilford rose to the occasion in the third meeting of the season with Northeast Guilford to win the Mid-State 3A Conference Tournament on Friday night at John Primm Gymnasium at Northeast High School. The Nighthawks finished the regular season (25-1,17-0) with the victory and were crowned Mid-State 3A Conference Tournament Champions.
The Nighthawks did what everyone expected. And they did it often. They got the ball into the hands of 6’5”, NC State commit, Elissa Cunane, even though it was Northeast’s game-plan to keep the ball out of Cunane’s hands. The Rams attempted double and triple-teaming the junior in the first half, but the shooting of guards Kassie Robakiewicz and Sami Furlough prevented Northeast from putting extra coverage on Cunane and leaving the guards open.
The teams battled back and forth for much of the first two quarters. The Nighthawks only led by three points after the first quarter, and had a seven point lead at half.
In the second half, Northern began to pull away.
The efforts of Northest’s Nichelle Jeffries slowed the Nighthawk control, as she went on a scoring tear, with 22 of her game-high 33 points coming after halftime.
In the end, Cunane, Robakiewicz, and Furlough were too much for Northeast Guilford. The final score was 69-54.
Elissa Cunane finished with 23 points, Kassie Robakiewicz scored 18, and the duo of Mercedes Wampler and Sami Furlough chipped in 10 apiece.
Northern head coach Kim Furlough was glad her team was tested in their last match-up before the state tournament starts on Tuesday.
“I think this was great, heading into the state tournament,” she said. “Our girls need to be challenged. Northeast plays hard, and they made some runs, but I think we stayed with what we do.”
Furlough praised her team’s perimeter shooting in the victory.
“Our guards stepped up big today. They hit some nice outside shots that freed it up inside for Cunane,” the coach added.
Furlough was well aware of the capabilities of Nichelle Jeffries and her answer was for the Nighthawks to do their best to “contain her,” she said.
The girls All-Tournament team consisted of three Nighthawk players and two players from the runner-up Rams.
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM:
Kassie Robakiewicz (NG)
Sami Furlough (NG)
Elissa Cunane (NG) ** MVP **
Nichelle Jeffries (NE)
Kassie Robakiewicz: 18pts
Sami Furlough: 10pts
Mercedes Wompler: 10pts
Elissa Cunane: 23pts
Nichelle Jeffries: 33pts
Tya Morrison: 7pts
Pam Mock: 5pts
Asia Pearley: 4pts
The Eastern Guilford Wildcats used a quick run, early in the fourth quarter, to pull away from the Eastern Alamance Eagles and never let their foot off the gas from there to claim the Mid-State 3A Conference Tournament Title. The Wildcats won their 16th game in-a-row to be named tournament champions, not losing a game since they lost 71-62 to Eastern Alamance on January 3rd.
The game was back-and-forth all the way up until halftime. Each bucket was answered by the other team and neither led by more than five points in the first half.
The Eagles led by four after the first eight minutes over the number one ranked Wildcats and had what appeared to be a handle on the game.
In the second frame, the Wildcats’ Ramal Patterson added nine points to spark his team and they trailed by one as halftime came.
It was Jaylen Alston and more of Patterson who helped the Wildcats pull away for good in the second half. The Wildcats finally led at the end of the third quarter, 48-44.
Early in the fourth, the Wildcats began scoring at will, and their lead began to grow. They took advantage of what appeared to be fatigue of the Eagles, and increased their lead to as many as 15 points before Eagles coach John McPherson changed the game to chess in the final minutes. Fouling, subbing defensive and offensive players, and using everything he could to try to get his team back in it, but, in the end, the Wildcats were too much.
The lead the Wildcats had built was not to be overcome on this night. Their streak remains in-tact.
Eastern Guilford coach Joe Spinks was very happy with his teams’ performance.
“Across the board it was just great,” Spinks said of the victory. “Eastern Alamance played well in the first half and the kids knew they had to keep on fighting, keep working hard, and they did.”
“We’re going to be us” was Spinks’ message that rallied his team for the comeback that they needed to win.
Jaylen Alston credited Spinks’ plan to break through a full-court press by the Eagles as the key to the victory.
“We battled through a lot of adversity to get the win,” the 6’4” junior said. “Coach came up with a plan that we (carried out) and we worked through it to win.”
Patterson, Alston, and Venable were the Wildcats’ representatives on the All-Tournament team, with Jaylen Alston named MVP of the Tournament.
Eastern Alamance’s McPherson called Eastern Guilford “the hottest team in the state of NC (at the 3A level)” postgame, and it would be hard to argue with him.
The Wildcats will hope for a high seed in the state playoffs and that they can continue their winning ways, when the NCHSAA state tournament starts on Tuesday.
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM:
Jeremiah Alston (EA)
Rasheed Reams (EA)
Jaylen Alston (EG) **MVP**
Montez Venable (EG)
Ramal Patterson (EG)
EASTERN GUILFORD SCORING:
Jaylen Alston- 23pts
Montez Venable- 17pts
Ramal Patterson- 17pts
EASTERN ALAMANCE SCORING:
Tre’ Thompson- 10pts
Ce’Darius Williams- 9pts
Jeremiah Alston- 9pts
Rasheed Reams- 9pts
Photos by Cameron Robles