KNIGHTDALE — Sophomore guard Mikaya Wilson stood at center court clutching her tournament MVP plaque during a group photo with other members of the all-tournament team at Knightdale High School on Saturday.
Wilson was dicing up a surging Wilson Hunt team minutes earlier, scoring two last-minute baskets to effectively put the Triangle Tip-Off tournament girls’ final on ice. Her late-game heroics helped the Knights (3-2) to a 64-59 win over Hunt (1-1).
“I’ve never gotten any high recognitions like that,” Wilson said of her MVP selection. “It made me feel good because I know now my teammates can trust me and look for me for an open shot.”
Wilson said she felt the pressure of the game’s closing moments, when at one point Hunt trailed by a single point. But any burden felt by the underclassman was masked by a few dumbfounding dribbles between her legs at the top of the key – and subsequently erased by the swish of her jump shot that followed.
Wilson was cool with the game on the line, as 15 of her 23 points in the championship came in the second half.
“I told my girls at halftime we were just going to try to keep it close and maybe win it at the end,” Hunt coach Wayne Hardy said after the game. “But, hey, the one little girl (Wilson) came through with two real big shots and that was the game.”
Wilson may have stolen the last-minute spotlight, but senior power forward Persia Brown was just as spectacular throughout the weekend, claiming a spot of her own on the all-tournament team. She was a dominating force beneath the rim and chipped in 12 points during the win over Hunt.
“I think their play comes from the simple fact that they were willing to work, even on Thanksgiving,” Knightdale coach Trent Bunn said of Brown and Wilson. “They called me at 8 o’clock in the morning (on Thanksgiving Day) to get into the gym to get some extra shots.”
Brown insisted that the early-season tournament title can only be attributed to the way her squad responded as a whole.
“(Hunt) actually put some good defense on us, and we just reacted as a team,” Brown said. “We played as a team and that’s how we won the game.”
The Knights have momentarily bounced back from a 1-2 start to the season.
“We still have a long way to go,” Bunn said. “It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint. We have to continue to work hard and hope to get better.”
Tip-Off rundown: Knightdale earned its spot in the girls’ championship by rolling Graham on Friday, 88-41, while second-place Hunt got past Middle Creek in the first round, 60-50.
Middle Creek topped Graham, 61-33, in the battle for third place in girls action.
On the boys’ side, Middle Creek battled back after trailing early on and claimed the Tip-Off title with an 84-63 triumph over Hunt.
Middle Creek handled Corinth Holders, 70-57, to get there, but Hunt just barely squeaked past East Chapel Hill, 58-57, to earn its finals bid.
East Chapel Hill claimed third place with a 55-44 win over Corinth Holders on Saturday.