Northeast didn’t play at home Tuesday night, but it sure felt like the Raiders were back across the river for a while during their game at Southwest.
The second-ranked Raiders (19-1, 10-0 GHSA Region 4-AA) sent their large cheering section into a frenzy early in the fourth quarter with a barrage of dunks to break open a six-point game and turn it into an eventual 63-41 blowout over the Patriots. Northeast has won 10 straight.
“Sometimes, young guys get caught up with what’s going on in the crowd,” Southwest head coach Hubert Hogan said. “I think (Northeast) started pulling away, and their crowd was loud, and our guys got shaken up.”
Junior Dante Gastin had four dunks in a span of about six minutes to lead the Raiders on a 20-6 run that started late in the third quarter with Southwest behind 34-28. Gastin caught an alley-oop pass from Mike Palmer near the end of the third quarter, then replicated the feat to open the fourth giving Northeast a 40-30 lead. He got another dunk on a breakaway and finished his run with a reverse jam. Gastin scored 10 of the Raiders’ 12 points during one stretch as they pulled away.
“It really brought up our intensity,” Gastin said. “I think when we have a big dunk, the team just plays harder.”
Sophomore guard Dontae Williams picked off where Gastin left off, converting a circus up-and-under layup and scoring eight points in a three-minute span as the Raiders went up by 20 points. Northeast scored 25 points in the fourth quarter.
Gastin and Palmer finished with 15 points each, while Williams pitched in 12 points.
Devinn Sallette led Southwest with 10 points.
The fourth-quarter flurry contrasted what was a methodical game on both ends for three quarters.
Southwest (12-5, 5-4) played zone defense in an attempt to slow down the game and prevent Northeast from playing up-tempo.
That pace helped the Patriots claim an 18-17 lead midway through the second quarter. But Northeast adjusted well and went on an 11-4 run to close the first half.
“You want to be patient, but you also want to put some pressure on them and hope that it’s cumulative throughout the game,” Northeast head coach Kerry Sandifer said. “The thing about these guys, they can play any style. They never get impatient, and that’s a good thing.”
Northeast can officially clinch at least a share of the regular season region championship with a win over Monticello next Tuesday. But the Raiders likely already have the region locked up with a four-game lead and four games left to play.
Northeast also won the girls game easily, 68-41. Marian Bond scored 24 points while Jerryshia Williams had 18.