02/22/04 — NL boys fall to bad slump in EPC title game

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NL boys fall to bad slump in EPC title game

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on February 22, 2004 2:00 AM

Courtesy Kinston Free Press

BETHEL -- North Lenoir had the Eastern Plains Conference tournament title in their hands as the fourth quarter opened in Friday night's EPC title game at the North Pitt gym.

The Hawks had built a 14-point lead -- their biggest of the night -- with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter after an alley-oop to Kevin Lee.

But a collossal collapse -- and a gritty North Pitt team -- just refused to let the visitors get the best of them -- as they have been doing for the past three seasons.

North Pitt did not allow another point from the Hwaks and went on a 22-0 storming of its own to pull out a 55-47 win and take the EPC Tournament title -- and the No. 1 EPC playoff berth that went with it.

Tournament MVP Jeremy Wilder and teammates Ryan Little and Andre Williams unleashed 17 of the Panthers' final 22 points. Little unloaded 17 points for the game, Williams finished with 16 and Wilder 10.

"I've gotta take full responsibility for it," North Lenoir coach Charlie Stevens said of the meltdown. "I think we ran out of gas. I probably didn't substitute as well as I should have. I thought when we went up 11 or 12 we'd be in good shape, but they made a run. They just wouldn't give in."

North Pitt deadlocked the game for the final time with 3:24 to play. Then the Panthers surpassed the Hawks for good when Williams ducked inside for two with 1:29 to play. That also upped the North Pitt run to 16-0.

The Hawks were led by Justin Dunn's 16 points, and 13 from Lee.

"I'm real disappointed for my kids, because I feel like I let them down," Stevens said. "The kids' effort was real good. I'm just disappointed in myself. We should have been able to make some moves to offset what they were doing, and we just didn't come up with the right plan tonight. We just have to try to get back together."

North Lenoir will open the state 2-A playoffs at home on Tuesday against Roanoke Rapids. North Pitt will get a first-round bye and open play on Thursday at home.

All-Tournament Team: Kevin Lee and Justin Dunn, North Lenoir; David McCray, Jeremy Wilder and Andre Williams, North Pitt; Jarrett Eason, SouthWest Edgecombe; Paul Novicki, South Lenoir.

Tournament MVP: Jeremy Wilder, North Pitt

All-Conference Team: Marcus Cherry, Tarboro; Jarrett Eason and Kendrick Thorpe, SouthWest Edgecombe; Teddie Waters and Clifton Chapman, Greene Central; Terry Edwards and Dontrae Rhem, South Lenoir; Justin Dunn, Kevin Lee, Leon Best and Jamie Mason, North Lenoir; Andre Williams, James Cherry, Jeremy Wilder and Ryan Little, North Pitt.

Coach of the Year: Jimmy Smith, South Lenoir.

Co-Players of the Year: Kevin Lee, North Lenoir, and Ryan Little, North Pitt.