After re-building the program that didn’t even have a varsity girls’ team during the 2013-14 season, the Lady Falcons headed into Friday night’s game against Cary Christian one win away from clinching the 2017-18 EPIC conference regular season championship.
Senior night festivities began the evening, as the Falcons honored seniors Alana McRae, Jessica Trinchitella, and Toyin Koleoso. Coach Brase shared, “These seniors have meant so much to this program. It is hard to put into words how much their leadership and charisma will be missed!”
The Falcons came out of the gate rearing to go, opening the first quarter on a 12-7 run. Soon all settled in and the game began its back and forth affair. Tenacious defensive, led by senior Alana McRae slowed Cary’s guards down through the first half. The Falcons headed into the locker room at halftime with a 24-14 lead. The second half saw both teams offenses start to heat up as the final buzzer neared. Cary made a push with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter to close the gap to a 6 point game. Free throws and defense sealed the game in the end, as eighth grader Caelan McHarney sank both free throws to give the Falcons the go ahead 49-47 victory. After the game, Coach Brase shared, “What a program win! Cary is a great team, and they made it really tough for us down the stretch. Our kids have played in close games all year and that experience paid off tonight when we needed it most.” With the win the Falcons move to a perfect 11-0 (17-4 overall) in conference to clinch the EPIC regular season conference championship.
Battling through double teams all night, senior Toyin Koleoso posted her 10th consecutive double- double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Joining her in double figures was sharp shooting sophomore, Rachel Patton adding 10 points. The balanced scoring attacked rounded out with Ralayah McRae (7 points), Alana McRae (7 points, 6 rebounds), Kayla Jenkins (6 points), and Caelan McHarney (5 points, 6 assists).
“Toyin really came to play in the 3rd quarter and was a difference maker on defense creating steals and layups. We challenged her at halftime to step up and be a senior leader, and she did just that,” shared Coach Brase.
Reflecting on the season, “this has been years in the making. When I first arrived at O’Neal, we did not even have enough girls to field a varsity basketball team. Five years later, we are undefeated in conference play and EPIC conference champions. These kids have bought in to our philosophy and play their hearts out every single night. They are an amazing group to coach and I’m so happy for them tonight!”
This is the third time in O’Neal’s history for girls varsity basketball winning the regular season conference. The last time was in 2006 when they played in the Triad Athletic Conference – 2A division.
The Falcons wrapped up an undefeated conference slate with a win over Carolina Friends Saturday (2/4) resulting in a 12-0 conference record. The Falcons have secured the #1 seed in this week’s EPIC conference tournament and will receive a bye for the opening round. They will host the semi-final game Thursday night at 5:30pm against the winner of the #4/#5 game.