02/05/06 — Southern Wayne takes over first in ECC

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Southern Wayne takes over first in ECC

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 5, 2006 2:20 AM

DUDLEY -- Win number 400 in Southern Wayne coach Mike Connelley's 27-year career in high school basketball couldn't have been much sweeter.

Connelley, in his second year with the Saints, saw his squad turn in a near-flawless offensive performance in the fourth quarter on their way to a 75-71 victory over Kinston in front of a capacity crowd in Dudley.

"You can't argue with any of the kids efforts on either team," Connelley said. "This is such a great rivalry. I've got a lot of respect for Kinston basketball and coach (Wells) Gulledge. We were very up for this game. It's just a thrill to be in a game like this."

The win not only avenged an early-season loss at Viking Gym, but it put Southern Wayne (18-2 overall) in sole possession of first place in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference at 9-1 with two games left.

The Saints, who now control their own destiny for the conference crown, travel to Wilson Hunt on Tuesday, before finishing the regular season at home on Thursday against Charles B. Aycock. Derek Garris, a starting guard for Southern Wayne, missed Friday's game with a pulled back, but should be back for the final week.

Kinston (17-5, 7-2 ECC) goes to Wilson Beddingfield on Tuesday, before hosting Eastern Wayne on Thursday in its finale.

Southern Wayne senior Akeem Royal, who drained three, 3-pointers in the fourth quarter in a game-high 29-point performance, believes the Saints must maintain their focus in the final two games coming off the big win.

"We've got to take care of business. We've got two more games after this," Royal said.

The first half of Friday's showdown between two of the top-10 teams in the state in the ncpreps.com poll, saw both squads shoot and score well below their season averages. The sixth-ranked Saints shot a chilly, 8-for-38 (21 percent) from the floor, while No. 4 Kinston was just 13-of-33 (39 percent).

Still, due to solid defense and the ability to get to the free-throw line, the home team trailed just 32-28 at the break.

"We're not very large and so we're trying to be aggressive and go the basket, then we can get fouled and go to the line," Connelley said.

The inconsistent offense by the two ECC foes continued until the waning minutes of the third period, before both teams traded a pair of runs to give the fans a taste of what was to come in an impressive fourth quarter. Keyed by six points by Miquel Starkey, who led Kinston with 19 points, the Vikings went up 42-35 after an 8-0 run with 1:45 left in the third.

Southern Wayne answered with its own 8-0 spurt as Royal and Antonio Davis, who contributed 20 points and seven rebounds, had two field goals each late in the third to give their team a slim, 43-42 advantage heading into the fourth.

The Vikings had the early momentum in the final quarter as center Quinton Coples had four early field goals to boost the visitors to a 57-52 lead two minutes into the fourth.

Then, the Saints got hot.

Delawn Armwood dropped in an open-court runner, before Royal canned back-to-back threes to answer Kinston baskets as the two teams combined for 37 points in the first 4:30 of the fourth.

Royal's third three of the fourth gave Southern Wayne its first lead in the quarter at 63-62 with 3:20 left. The Saints, who were a perfect, 8-of-8 from the floor in the final quarter, would never trail again.

Paced by clutch free-throw shooting by Davis, Armwood, Royal and Austin Hood, the Saints consistently maintained their lead down the stretch. Southern Wayne was 26-of-38 from the stripe on the game and made 12-of-18 in the fourth. Meanwhile, Kinston got to the line only once in the final quarter and was just 7-of-13 overall.

"Credit them for getting to the line," Gulledge said. "They attacked the basket extremely well with (Delawn Armwood) and (Akeem Royal)."

Still, Kinston never went away. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Curtis Hines pulled the Vikings within three at 72-69 with :21 seconds left. Hood made 1-of-2 at the line the next time down, before Kinston's K.K. Sherrod followed his own miss to make it 73-71 with four seconds left.

Royal was fouled by the Vikings on the Saints' next possession. Needing to make both free throws to keep it a two-possession game, the senior did just that -- pushing the score to its final margin at 75-71.

By the end of the thrilling final quarter, Southern Wayne had outscored Kinston 32-29.

In the girls game, Kinston picked up its first win in ECC play with a 29-27 win over Southern Wayne in a sluggish contest.

The Lady Vikings (5-15) improved to 1-7 in conference play, while the Lady Saints (6-11) fell to 2-6 in the league.

The two teams combined for just 18 points and six field goals in the first half as Southern Wayne took a 10-6 lead into the locker room.

The Saints would manage just two points in the third quarter as Kinston bounced back to take an 18-12 advantage after three quarters.

Southern Wayne finally found some offense in the fourth as it got within two of the Vikings several times in the fourth, the last coming with :20 seconds left after 1-of-2 at the line by Ebony Darden. Kinston missed a pair of free throws on its next trip down, leaving the door open for the Saints to tie or take the lead with a 3-pointer.

In the final 10 seconds, Southern Wayne, who made just eight total field goals, missed one shot, then turned it over as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Kiera Ingram paced the Saints with 10 points, while Darden chipped in nine points.

Girls game

Kinston 4 2 12 11 -- 29

So. Wayne 4 6 2 15 -- 27

KINSTON (5-15, 1-7)

Shaquata Rhodes 3 0 2-6 8, Courtney Smith 2 1 1-3 8, Cierra Parker 3 0 0-2 6, Sherita Gooding 0 0 2-8 2, Crystal Roach 1 0 1-4 3. TOTALS -- 9 1 6-23 29.

SOUTHERN WAYNE (6-11, 2-6)

Kiera Ingram 3 0 4-4 10, Ebony Darden 2 0 5-8 9, Shakoria Clark 1 1 1-2 6, Lynnesha Leonard 1 0 0-2 2. TOTALS -- 7 1 10-16 27.

3-point goals -- KHS 1 (Smith), SW 1 (Clark). Turnovers -- KHS 16, SW 19. Total fouls -- KHS 14, SW 13. Fouled out -- Leonard (SW). Technical fouls -- none.

Boys game

Kinston 19 12 8 29 -- 71

So. Wayne 14 14 15 32 -- 75

KINSTON (17-5, 8-2)

Miquel Starkey 7 1 2-2 19, Quinton Coples 7 0 0-0 14, Curtis Hines 2 3 1-1 14, Jermaine Miller 2 0 0-1 4, Felton Mason 3 0 2-3 8, K.K. Sherrod 1 0 1-4 3, Rashad Wynn 1 0 0-0 2, Tremaine Miller 1 0 0-0 2, Bo Ingram 0 0 1-2 1. TOTALS -- 26 4 7-13 71.

SOUTHERN WAYNE (18-2, 9-1)

Akeem Royal 5 4 7-8 29, Antonio Davis 6 0 8-8 20, Delawn Armwood 3 1 8-14 17, Austin Hood 1 0 2-6 4, Anthony Council 1 0 1-2 3, Justin Bellamy 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 17 5 26-38 75.

3-point goals - KHS 4 (Hines 3, Starkey), SW 5 (Royal 4, Armwood). Turnovers - KHS 22, SW 18. Total fouls - KHS 25, SW 15. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none.