GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Rosewood battles past Neuse Charter
By Justin Hayes
Published in Sports on February 17, 2017 10:03 AM
CALYPSO -- Grind down. Attack mode.
Those two principles were on prominent display Thursday evening as the Rosewood varsity girls' basketball team rallied by acclaimed Neuse Charter, 60-53, in semifinal-round action of the Carolina 1-A Conference tournament at North Duplin High School.
The contest -- a loud, back-and-forth exemplar of postseason hoops -- moved the Eagles to 15-10 on the season and into tonight's' championship final versus No. 1 seed Princeton.
Tip-off is 6 p.m.
Courtesy of its prowess from beyond the arc, Neuse Charter (20-7) opened the affair in warp speed -- especially junior forward McKenna Kersat, whose consecutive triples late in the period helped fashion a narrow lead after eight minutes.
The Eagles responded in kind, however, turning volume-shooter Braylee Butts loose in a myriad of second-quarter half-court sets. And the quick-triggered pistol responded, netting seven points in a blink to narrow the Cougar advantage.
At the break, Neuse Charter led 26-21.
Then Rosewood's Nekia Williams went ballistic.
The senior controlled everything in the paint during a raucous third quarter, collecting rebound upon rebound and forcing Kersat into her third and fourth fouls of the contest.
With Rosewood trailing 47-40 to start the final period, Kersat picked up her fifth foul -- a miscue that eased congestion in the lane and made matters easier to navigate for Butts and Eagle point guard Payton Lane.
And the duo took full advantage, driving the basketball with pace, defending with renewed vigor and visiting the free throw line with regularity over the final five minutes -- 14 times, to be exact.
"We turned our effort up," head coach Tee Wooten said. "(We) went into attack mode on offense and established higher pressure on the defensive end -- it's a staple of who we are as a team."
After a nifty 'and-one' by Butts at the 1:15 mark of the fourth, RHS never trailed again. From there, the sophomore secured victory by ripping cord on clutch free throws to put the finishing touches on a 24-point stanza that left most in attendance stunned.
Kersat finished with 14 points in a game effort for Neuse Charter. Junior guard Kiondra Webb also played well, netting 14 points and grabbing four rebounds.
Butts led all scorers with 25 points, while Lane finished with 13. Williams was the difference, however, scoring 15 points and collecting 20 -- yes, 20 -- rebounds.
"That's very impressive," Wooten said of his senior. "Nekia rose her game to another level tonight at both ends... her will for us to win tonight was special to watch."
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