02/22/04 — Gator boys fall in Carolina boys championship

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Gator boys fall in Carolina boys championship

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 22, 2004 2:00 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- It's an adage that Spring Creek boys basketball coach Sonny Kilpatrick has subscribed to since he began his coaching career -- "Put yourself in position to win in the end, and you've got a chance."

His second-seeded Gators did just that in their Class 1-A Carolina Conference championship clash with top seed Ayden-Grifton, but a gritty defensive stretch by the Chargers late in the fourth period proved to be the difference.

After a nip-and-tuck game of runs through the first 29 minutes of play, Spring Creek (20-7) went scoreless in the final 2:47 as the Chargers (17-6) claimed the conference title for the second straight year in a 68-63 win.

It was Spring Creek's second straight loss to Ayden-Grifton in the championship game after claiming the title in 2002. The Chargers have handed Spring Creek three of their seven losses this season.

"It was a hard one for our guys to lose," Kilpatrick said. "We made more of a game out of this time than we did last time or the time before, but you never want to lose. You definitely don't want to lose to the same team three times."

The Gators now move on the N.C. High School Athletic Association state playoffs, opening Thursday at home against the winner of Tuesday's game between Heide Trask and Union.

Ayden-Grifton's Jamal Rouse pumped in 26 points to lead all scorers, including 20 in the second half. Robby Phillips and Jecol Edwards added 10 points each.

Shane Stevenson added a strong fourth, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the final period. His layup tied the game at 56-56. After draining a three, Grey Wilson, who led the Gators with 18 points, dropped in a tough shot through the lane at the 2:47 mark to give Spring Creek a 63-58 lead

Trailing 65-63 after a basket by Ayden-Grifton's Tyshawn Hall, Spring Creek was whistled for a charge at the 1:15 mark and turned it over after the Gators' Brian Armstrong came through with a big block shot on the defensive end. The Chargers' Jeremy McGhee, who had seven key points in the fourth, knocked down two-of-two at the line with 23 seconds left to give his team a 67-63 lead.

Ayden-Grifton finished the game on a 10-0 run.

"That was a real gutty performance. With a few breaks, they (Spring Creek) could have won the game, too," Ayden-Grifton coach Bob Murphrey said. "We just got down and bowed our necks and started playing real good on defense.

"I thought the biggest play of the game was when Jecol Edwards took that charge."

Both teams struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the first period as Spring Creek's extended zone and Ayden-Grifton's man-to-man controlled the early going.

Spring Creek had led by as much as 25-17 at the 3:00 mark of the second when Dalress Bell picked up a steal and found Josh Bishop. Ayden-Grifton answered with a 10-4 run to close the half, but the Gators went into the locker room with a 29-27 edge.

Rouse turned it up on the offensive end in the second half as the senior guard scored his 13th point of the third on a runner at the buzzer that put the Chargers up 49-43 headed into the fourth. Rouse benefitted from solid screens by his teammates in the second half against Spring Creek's zone.

Wilson's coast-to-coast lay-up capped an 8-0 Gator run to open the fourth, but as Wilson raced down the court his teammate Bishop lay on the sideline with a calf cramp. Bishop started cramping in the third period and managed just two points in the second half after an 18-point fourth-period effort in the semi-