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RALEIGH — Wakefield's girls basketball team is off to a great start in NAC 6 conference play with wins over rivals Heritage and Rolesville over the span of five days.
The Lady Wolverines are celebrating their most recent win over Heritage. Wakefield defeated the Huskies 42-32 to earn their first road win of the season Tuesday.
"It doesn't matter what Heritage's record is, they are always going to give us a fight," Wakefield head coach Donald Williams said. "It's a rivalry. They are consistent with their style, so you have to shut down the 3-point line with them."
Heritage jumped ahead early off of back-to-back 3-pointers from Simone Mahoney. Then the Huskies went up by double digits at 13-3. Wakefield cut it down to 15-8 by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wolverines started to put some shots together. Wakefield took their first lead of the night at 20-19, but then Heritage took it right back at 22-20 after a 3-pointer from Caroline Ishman. The score remained that way at halftime.
In the third period, there were four lead changes. However, Heritage scored the final bucket of the quarter to make it a narrow 29-27 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Wakefield and Heritage went back and forth early, but then the Wolverines jumped ahead on a 12-0 run to go up 42-32. Wakefield held off Heritage from there to win the rivalry match-up.
"We just had to keep playing defense," Donald said. "We gave up way too many points in the first half. Our goal coming out of halftime was to keep Heritage down to 32 points. I can't believe we actually kept them to 32 points. We gave up too many 3-pointers and that's what we had to focus on in the second half."
Elise Williams led the Wolverines with 18 points in the win. Her teammate Amirah Allen was second with 10 points. Donald said the girls settled down in the second half, which led to more scoring.
"Heritage is a well-coached defensive team," Donald said. "I don't think we were ever relaxed on offense in the first half. We were too uptight all night offensively. Once we played relaxed, we got our baskets."
With the win, Wakefield improved to 12-3 overall. The Wolverines are now 2-0 in NAC 6 conference play.
"We try to do one game at a time," Donald said. "Anybody can beat anybody in this conference. We just have to be ready. We have to play defense every night."
Before they defeated Heritage, Wakefield blew Rolesville away with a convincing score of 54-31 at home Friday Jan. 10.
Entering the game, Rolesville was 12-1 overall, 4-0 on the road and was on a four-game win streak. All of that success came to a screeching halt at Wakefield.
The Wolverines opened the game with a 12-3 run. Rolesville finally made an inside shot at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 12-5.
In the second quarter, Wakefield pulled off a 17-3 run to go ahead 29-8. After trading a few baskets back and forth, the Wolverines went into halftime up 36-13.
In the third quarter, Rolesville outscored Wakefield 11-8, but the Wolverines still held on to a comfortable 44-24 lead.
Wakefield finished off their opponent with 10 more points in the fourth quarter to come out with a 54-31 victory in the first NAC 6 conference game of the season.
"Defense is every night with us," Donald said. "We're going to have to win with our defense. We have a different group this year than we did last year. The girls are getting better."
During their win streak, Wakefield has held their opponents to less than 40 points every game. Donald said this team has worked hard on their craft this season.
"Our strength is bringing pressure," Donald said. "We have some great guards who can ball. Our traps is what gets us going defensively."
Another strength of Wakefield's team is Elise Williams. The junior small forward led her team with 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals against the Rams.
"For me, I have had to be more active in speaking to my teammates this year," Elise said. "Last year, I was following behind some good senior leaders. This year, I have to do a little bit of everything. It's tough, but I'm getting used to it."
As a sophomore last year, Elise averaged 11.4 points, six rebounds, 3.7 steals and 2.1 assists per game in her first year on varsity. As one of the most experienced players on the team this season, she has come into more of a leadership role.
"Elise has a different role for us this year as our top scorer," Donald said. "She has to carry us. She's a talented player, so she has to do everything for us."
This season, Elise is averaging 19.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, six steals and 5.1 assists per game. She said the main thing she has focused on is her offensive play.
"I've been working on creating my own shot off the dribble," Elise said. "I'm trying to get to the free throw line and then knock those shots down."
The only other NAC 6 conference team who is 2-0 against conference opponents is Knightdale. Wakefield won't play them until Jan. 28. The Wolverines will focus on Corinth Holders at home Friday Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.
"We have to stay focused all 32 minutes of a game," Donald said. "This year, every conference game is going to be tough. If we keep playing our defense, we'll be OK."
"Momentum can change the course of a game," Elise said. "We just have to take care of the ball and play defense."