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Lady Wolverines stifled by Cary Imps

Lady Wolverines rally to top rival Huskies

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RALEIGH — Wakefield’s girls basketball team got upset by Cary High School in a 63-44 defeat at home Tuesday in the fourth round of the 4A state playoffs.

The Lady Wolverines came into the game as the No. 1 overall team in the state and the Imps were ranked as the No. 5 seed. Wakefield started off the game down 10-0 and Cary went into the second quarter up 20-2.

The Wolverines played better offensively in the second period, but they couldn’t keep the Imps from scoring. Cary went into halftime with a 32-19 advantage.

Cary scored the first six points of the third quarter and extended their lead to 45-23. Wakefield tried to climb back and cut the deficit to 45-27 at the end of the period.

In the fourth quarter, Cary outscored Wakefield 18-17 on their way to a 63-44 win. The Imps have four players on their roster who are over 6 feet tall. Size played a big impact as Cary came down with offensive rebounds throughout the night.

Wakefield head coach Donald Williams said Cary played better than his team and it was as simple as that.

“Cary’s got a good team,” Donald said. “Unfortunately, we had one of our worst games of the season. I told the girls to keep their head up, because it was a heck of a year. This one loss isn’t going to take away what they accomplished this season.”

With the playoff loss, Wakefield finished the season 27-2 overall and undefeated in NAC 6 conference play. The Wolverines haven’t won 27 games since 2008.

Wakefield will say goodbye to seven seniors this year. Three of them were starters for all four years on varsity. Gabby Donaldson, Jada Peebles and Peris Pavlinac all finished with over 1,000 career points and won a total of 76 games in four seasons. Donaldson scored 24 points in her final game at Wakefield.

“I want to thank the seniors for the ride they took me on these past couple of seasons,” Donald said. “They started something here and they left a legacy. They don’t have anything to hang their head about.”

Even though Wakefield is losing some talented players to graduation, Donald is confident the team can continue their success next year.

“Hopefully, the younger players learned from the seniors,” Donald said. “I want them to come back and work hard. I’m looking forward to next year.”

Wakefield was down 10-0 to start the game against Heritage, but the Wolverines locked down on defense and hit some big shots down the stretch to battle back for a 36-31 win at home Saturday.

Wakefield was scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game. They didn’t take the lead until the very last second of the third quarter when Peris Pavlinac hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to put the Wolverines up 29-26.

Heritage eventually tied the game again at 31-31, but then Wakefield scored the final five points of the night to hold onto the victory. Three of those last five points was a 3-pointer from Pavlinac.

“The girls just refused to lose,” Wakefield head coach Donald Williams said. “Every time I challenge them, they step up and rise to the occasion. This is an amazing group.”

Heritage held a 13-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 22-14 advantage at halftime. Wakefield battled back and capitalized on their opponent’s turnovers to get the pivotal playoff win.

After the game, Heritage head coach Pat Kennedy said the comeback was more about Wakefield playing well than his team playing poorly.

“I don’t think we fell apart,” Kennedy said. “I think it was more of Wakefield showing their championship-caliber. They made some great plays and made some big shots.”

Elise Williams led Wakefield with 17 points, six steals and three rebounds. The sophomore made big plays on both offense and defense to help the Wolverines rally to a win.

“It was our defense that helped us get back in it tonight,” Elise said. “Coach Williams told us at halftime that we need to step it up, because Heritage is not a better team than us. We just stepped up our defense.”

Meanwhile, Pavlinac made four 3-pointers to finish the night with 12 points. The senior shooting guard also reached 1,000 career points in the win over Heritage.

“Elise and Peris stepped up tonight,” Donald said. “We have so many good players. No matter how many shots Peris misses, she still takes them. She’s a confident shooter. Elise is just an amazing player. She’s young, but she’s so gifted and talented.”

Heritage was outscored 15-4 in the third quarter and only put up five points in the fourth. The usually high-scoring team was shut down by Wakefield and Kennedy said switching up the defensive assignments and turnovers were the key factor in the playoff loss.

“We had to play something different than what we were doing earlier on defense,” Kennedy said. “We had a strategy and it worked for a while, but we had 13 turnovers in the second half. It’s tough to do that and win a game.”

For the past three years, Heritage always swept Wakefield during the season and never lost to them since 2015. They also beat Wakefield in the third round of the state playoffs last year. This year, the table turned to Wakefield’s favor. The Wolverines swept their rival during the regular season, defeated them 37-31 to win the NAC 6 conference tournament and beat them in the third round of the state playoffs.

“Beating Heritage four times in one season feels amazing,” Elise said. “Last year, it was the other way around. For everything to be reversed this year is great.”

With the loss, Heritage finished the season 23-4 overall. All four of their losses were to Wakefield. The Huskies will say goodbye to five seniors this summer. All five of them started for Heritage this year and four of them started every season since their freshman year.

“The girls who started on this varsity program since they were freshmen have finished their career with a record of 97-15,” Kennedy said. “They set a standard for our program that’s great for all of our younger players. As coaches, we never wanted to stop coaching them.”

With the win, Wakefield improved to 27-1 overall and are still undefeated at home this season. The No. 1 seed in the east region is still trying to prove that they belong in the state championship game.

“The girls know what the goal is,” Donald said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. The girls want to be state champions. They know what they have to do to reach that goal.”

Second-round victory over Rolesville

Wakefield has never lost to Rolesville and it continued that streak in the state playoffs with a 61-22 win at home Feb. 28.

The game started out very close, with the Wolverines holding a narrow 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second period, The Wolverines pulled off an 11-0 to go into halftime up 23-12.

From that point on, Wakefield dominated the match. The Wolverines led 44-17 at the end of the third quarter and outscored the Rams 17-5 in the final period, including an 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter to win the game 61-22.

“It’s defense every night with us,” Donald said. “We just had to correct a couple of things in the first quarter. These girls are great at adjusting on defense. Our defense helped us out on the offensive end.”

Gabby Donaldson led Wakefield with 20 points and Elise Williams was right behind her with 18. Donaldson also led the Wolverines with six assists and four steals. Elise pulled down six rebounds to lead the squad, while also grabbing three steals.

“Everybody knows their role on this team,” Donald said. “We knew that without Jada, we had to pick up the slack on offense. Gabby and Elise are good at attacking the basket.”

With the loss, Rolesville finished the season 19-8 overall. Head coach Clinton Williams said his girls didn’t have the right mentality against their opponent, which led to the playoff defeat.

“Wakefield is well-coached,” Clinton said. “They are very athletic and put a lot of pressure on the ball. If you don’t play aggressive against them, things are going to get problematic.”

Rolesville will say goodbye to two seniors this year, including all-conference player Naomi Lockamy. She played point guard for the varsity team her entire career. Clinton said there was a lot of good things to look back on and even better things coming ahead.

“We definitely played better this year than last year,” Clinton said. “Our 19 wins is the most in a season. We made it to the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row. We’re making strides. This season was a big accomplishment.”