Denzel Council never lost faith in his free-throw shooting touch.
Not even after he missed five fourth-quarter free throws.
“Just like practice, just have faith,” the Northeast junior said.
Council rebounded to drain four free throws in the final 1:15 to lift the Raiders to a 56-51 region win over Greene County on Friday at home.
Council led the Raiders with 23 points, while senior Dante Gastin finished with 19 points.
“This is a great win for our team,” Northeast head coach Millard Vining said. “We kind of had this game circled after we lost to them at their place in overtime.”
The Raiders controlled the first half before coming out of the half cold. They didn’t score a point for nearly four minutes to start third quarter for nearly before a Council layup gave the Raiders a two-point lead. Northeast made just one more field goal in the quarter and finished it with six total points, and Greene County led by five entering the fourth.
Greene County took over in the third quarter and held a lead for much of the fourth quarter with its pesky full-court pressure. The guard-heavy Tigers forced turnovers by getting deflections in the press and converting them into easy baskets.
“It’s like having a gnat buzzing around your head,” Vining said. “They do a good job of annoying you and making you make mistakes.”
But the Raiders took control by making just enough free throws while Greene County also missed a number of them. While the Raiders missed eight in the fourth quarter, the Tigers missed five in the final 2:30.
A layup by Emonte Curtis with 1:41 left gave the Raiders the lead for good at 52-51, then Council stepped up with four consecutive free throws to ice the game.
“This is a real big win for us,” Council said. “We want to host the region tournament.”
The Northeast girls basketball team tends to have pretty productive nights when their full-court pressure defense clicks.
It took a quarter on Friday for that to happen, but the Raiderettes (17-2, 10-0 GHSA Region 4-AA) took control when it did and rolled to a 62-43 win.
Maria Bond led Northeast with 26 points while Jerryshia Williams pitched in 11 points.
“To be honest, we just didn’t play very well for a quarter,” head coach Alvin Copeland said. “We missed a number of easy shots. We made an adjustment after a timeout and did a good job after that. Our girls adjusted pretty well.”
The Raiderettes used a 21-0 run in the second quarter to break open a tie game. The game quickly got out of hand during the run. Greene County, which had two post players taller than any Northeast player, couldn’t get set into a half-court offense because of the Northeast press.
Northeast stretched the lead to 30 points in the fourth quarter before Copeland pulled his starters. The longtime Northeast head coach gave his starters a rest for half of the third quarter as well.
The Raiderettes have now won eight straight games since a holiday tournament loss to Westside before Christmas. After being held to 39 points in that loss to the Seminoles, Northeast has scored more than 60 points in six of those eight wins.