Millbrook girls will take on undefeated Hope Mills South View tomorrow at noon for the 4-A Eastern regional title in Fayetteville (photo by Mike McCloone).
For the past few day Millbrook has become the center of the high school basketball in the Triangle. Both the boys and the girls team have advanced to the NCHSAA 4-A Eastern Regional championship. Each team has an interesting story. Here’s what I learned Thursday when I visited the girls team.
For most the season, the public perception was that Green Hope had the best team in the area thanks to the great success of guard Kristen Gaffney. The star junior who average 30 points a game this season suffered a right ankle injury that prevented her from playing against Millbrook in the sectional championship game. It was this round where most people expect Millbrook’s season to end, yet the Wildcats went on the win 48-39, and coach Chris East said his girls want to keep proving people wrong.
“We read blogs and newspapers about how good the Tri Nine was, and in reality, I thought the Cap Eight was the toughest conference and those last games were so close that they felt like playoff games,” East said.
Millbrook hold the area’s current longest winning streak in 27 games. Yet, because of their team being full of sophomores and juniors, the Wildcats want to prove their ready to be among the state’s elite teams.
Tomorrow’s game against Hope Mills South View (29-0) will be their first regional final in school history. It’s also another test for the Wildcats as they will be looked on as the underdog against South View team playing close to home.
“We realize that we’ve gone further than most schools, and I think that says something about how we all get along,” said center Briana Day, who averages 11 points.
Guard Katelyn Mitchell says the Wildcats have improved dramatically in the past three weeks. Although the Wildcats were clearly the best team in the Cap Eight, East was set on being tough on this team – even during games against first-year school Heritage.
Now, East says being tough on his team has translated to the floor, where the Wildcats are holding opponents to 35 points a game and stopped a potent Southeast Raleigh team to just 26 points.
“We’re starting to make better passes now,” Mitchell said. “We’re not being selfish.”
And even while they were improving, the Wildcats were also there to help Millbrook’s boys, who started the season 6-7 at one point before reaching the regional final.
“We told them, ‘You’ll have to get it together,’” Day said. “I don’t think they wanted us to be better. We’re both a competitive group.”
Now, Millbrook will play back-to-back games tomorrow in Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum. If both teams win, they’ll move on to play for the state time in Chapel Hill’s Smith Center.
“It’s awesome,” East said of having both teams making the regional final. “I think too many times our school is represented in a negative light, and this is who we want out in the public.”
The Wildcats can continue to impress the state with a victory tomorrow.