Millbrook wins first state championship in an instant classic
By Johnathan Kirkland
In a game that will forever be remembered as one of the best NCHSAA state championship games in history, Millbrook defeated Ardrey Kell 67-65 in overtime in the 4A championship to bring the first ever state championship to the school and the first in Raleigh since 2006.
Silas Demeray Jr scored all eight of Millbrook's points in the overtime period, including the steal and subsequent lay up that would be the game winning points to secure the state championship for Millbrook.
Ardrey Kell got out to an early 15-10 lead over Millbrook in the first quarter, but Millbrook stormed back to take a 31-24 lead into the half. Ardrey Kell then made a run of their own and dominated the third quarter, outscoring Millbrook 25-14 in the frame to take a 49-45 lead into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was one to remember as Millbrook opened up the quarter on an 11-2 run and seemed poised to be getting ready to win their first state title. But Ardrey Kell had other plans. They went on a quick 6-0 run with two and 1's from Peyton Gerald and Elijah Gray. Redford Dunton made a two with 21 seconds left to give Millbrook a 59-58 lead.
Evan Smith then ran the length of the court and hit a running shot to give Ardrey Kell the lead back with 10 seconds to play. Demary was then fouled as he attempted a shot with 5.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
With his team down one and only seconds remaining Demary missed the first free throw, but sank the second one to tie the game at 59. Ardrey Kell was able to get off a shot at the buzzer but it was off the mark and the game headed to overtime. For Millbrook it was their third overtime game in a row.
After Demary started the overtime period with two points, Ardrey Kell reeled off six straight points for a 65-61 lead. Millbrook was forced to foul to stop the clock, and it came down to free throws. Ardrey Kell missed both free throws and Demary was fouled and made both to cut the lead to 65-63. The same scenario played out again with Ardrey Kell missing two free throws and Demary getting to the line and sinking two more to tie the game at 65.
It was then time for the play that will be remembered for years to come at Millbrook and North Carolina high school basketball. After the free throws to tie the game Ardrey Kell inbounded the ball, they dribbled a couple of times up the court but were met by three Millbrook players. Demary was able to grab the ball, spin, and then there was open court as Demary layed the ball in with 4 seconds to play.
There was pandemonium on the court and in the stands. After an Ardrey Kell timeout, they had a chance to tie the game, but the shot at the buzzer, a runner from the foul line, fell short. The celebration was on for Millbrook as they captured their first state championship in dramatic fashion. With two straight overtime wins to make it to the state championship game, it was only fitting that they ended their state title run in dramatic fashion and in overtime.
Millbrook 10 21 14 14 8 67
Ardrey Kell 15 9 25 10 6 65
Silas Demary Jr. 22 points
Eric van der Heijden 21 points
Redford Dunton 10 points
Knoah Carver 21 points
Elijah Gray 18 points
Peyton Gerald 14 points
Silas Demary Jr. Millbrook (2022) Demary will be remembered for his steal and layup to seal the state championship for Millbrook, but he is also an all around player with a bright future. Demary is calm under pressure, evident by his four straight free throws in overtime and the steal to win the game. He took over the leadership role when van der Heijden fouled out at the end of regulation and he wore that role well. Demary averaged 15 points a game during the regular season and continued to show his skills throughout the playoffs. Demary has a high basketball IQ and always makes the right decisions on the court.
Knoah Carver Ardrey Kell (2021) The senior made 5 three-pointers and didn't turn the ball over the entire game until overtime was one of three players that almost brought the state title to Ardrey Kell. He is an elite shooter and proved that by going head-to-head with Louisville commit van der Heijden the entire game. He doesn't turn the ball over and that turns into points most of the time.
Eric van der Heijden Millbrook (2021 Louisville) van der Heijden returned to Millbrook instead of enrolling early at Louisville to try and bring a state title home before he left. He fulfilled that wish on Saturday night. He did foul out at the end of regulation, but he was still able to pour in 21 points before then. He had a strong night from three and his dribble and drive was tough to defend. van der Heijden is as advertised and will fit in well with Chris Mack's squad at Louisville.
Elijah Gray Ardrey Kell (6'8 2022) Gray's impact was immediately known when he had to sit out for a spell in the second quarter due to foul trouble. Millbrook was able to get inside and get easy baskets without Gray in the lineup. As soon as Gray re-entered the game the scoring inside suddenly dried up. It wasn't a coincidence, it was the presence of Gray inside. On top of his great defense on Dunton and van der Heijden inside, he also contributed 18 points on the offensive end.