"We played playground basketball together, but we've never been on an official team and played organized basketball together," Nimmons said. "It was a big adjustment. . . . Somehow, someway, we came together and got it done."
The Prep Charter girls' basketball team is banned from postseason play this year because it used ineligible players. Nimmons transferred to her neighborhood school, but the adjustment did not always come easily.
"We have a lot of new additions this offseason," Northeast coach Phillip Monastra said. "They all come from other teams where they might have been the star. . . . It's been a work in progress, but slowly but surely we've had games and glimpses where, if we play as a team, we're one of the most talented teams - and it showed."
Central's Symantha Marrero knocked down a three-pointer midway through the second quarter to give her 17 points and her team a 26-18 lead. Northeast responded with a 51-9 run that lasted up to the fourth quarter, including a 34-4 edge in the third period.
The large Northeast cheering section grew louder, with fans hugging and dancing courtside and drawing closer to the floor with each passing bucket despite trying to hold each other back.
A policeman eventually intervened with a smile, making sure the crowd didn't spill onto the floor. Monastra said fans wanted the championship "almost as much as we did."
"It's motivation," said Willis, who had 11 points in the third. "That's all my family. They're always at my games hyped, loud. It helps."
With the win, Northeast advanced to the Public League semifinals. It will face the Class A winner on Thursday.
Nimmons said she knows there's still work to do as she pursues a fourth Public League title.
"I can't go out with a loss," she said.
Northeast 16 19 34 11 – 80
Central 19 12 4 24 – 59
N: Lauren Willis 28, Ciera Nimmons 28, Tahira Vance 4, Briyah Hill 2, Jacqueline Hagan 9, Robmira Taylor 6, Tianna Simon 3.
C: Symantha Marrero 18, Shanique Mattis 11, Reuneshia Williams 5, Liza Tomczuk 9, Andria Stanton 16.