By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 26, 2004 1:56 PM
LAGRANGE -- A crucial phase of impatience late in the fourth period proved costly for North Lenoir in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A girls basketball playoffs Wednesday.
The Hawks committed four turnovers in a one-minute span and allowed Bunn to escape 50-47 in their sectional No. 2 semifinal-round battle at Wooten Gymnasium. The Wildcats, seeded third from the Northern Carolina Conference, continue play Friday at Southeast Halifax.
Bunn junior Nakisha Stewart, right, blocks North Lenoir's Katy Maloney during first-half action Wednesday at Wooten Gymnasium.
An injury stopped play midway through the fourth quarter with North Lenoir holding a slim lead. The Hawks coaching staff told the players to bring the ball past halfcourt, keep the dribble alive and look only for layups since they had the lead.
The Wildcats (23-3) had trouble stopping the dribble penetration and had committed previous fouls on back-door cuts. But somehow, the instructions didn't stick with North Lenoir.
The Hawks owned their last lead at 47-45 on Shannon Plymouth's layup off Tiera Broadie's assist.
Bunn's Jasmine Stewart hit the front end of a two-shot foul after getting hacked on an offensive rebound. North Lenoir turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and the Wildcats' Nakisha Stewart hit a driving layup with 1 minute, 8 seconds remaining in regulation.
North Lenoir had four possessions to either get a foul or hit the go-ahead basket. The Hawks turned the ball over three times on their half of the court. The fourth turnover occurred in the Wildcats' backcourt.
"We were too impatient in the end," Hawks coach Wayne Floyd said. "We did our best to throw it away every time we came down the floor. All we had to do was get on the foul line if we got to the basket."
Stewart drained two free throws with 3.4 seconds to go, giving the visitors a 50-47 lead. Each team burned a timeout before the Hawks failed to get off a last-second shot.
It was the second nail-biting victory for the Wildcats, who survived Eastern Alamance 52-51 on Monday.
"They showed some guts," Bunn coach David Wright said. "We've won more games this year than the last two years (combined), but we haven't won anything, yet. We didn't win the conference or the conference tournament.
"They're sort of hungry. I want that from them."
Wright saw some of that desire in the opening quarter. The Hawks, ranked No. 4 in the ihigh.com poll, rolled to a 12-2 lead behind the play of Lonnie Jones.
Bunn calmed down against North Lenoir's trapping defense and finally got into an offensive rhythm of its own. The Wildcats uncorked a whopping 25-8 run and headed to the locker room with a 27-20 lead at halftime.
The break gave the Hawks a chance to recover, and it also woke up Shannon Plymouth. Plymouth sparked a 14-2 run with nine third-quarter points.
"She came out on fire and did a great job," Floyd said. "We didn't get the ball in her hands (enough). We didn't run the offense ... too many long passes and too many bad cross-court passes.
"They're quick and you don't do that kind of stuff. We cautioned them about it, but you can't play for them. When they're on the floor, they've got to do the job."
Plymouth's free throw and a Katy Maloney free throw gave North Lenoir its biggest lead of the second half -- 36-31 with 1:50 left in the third. The Hawks scored another basket before giving up a last-second 3-pointer to Bunn's Danita Cotton.
The Wildcats tied the game at 38-38 in the fourth and Stewart began getting more touches on the ball. The junior forward collected 11 of her game-high 23 points in the final period and helped Bunn advance to Friday's sectional championship game.
Wright said that Stewart has scored more than 2,250 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds in her career. She is receiving attention from Tennessee, Connecticut, Duke and North Carolina.
"(Stewart) got her hands on it in the end and she can put it away for you, which she did," Floyd said.
Plymouth finished with 19 points for North Lenoir, which suffered just its second home loss of the season. Maloney added nine, while Jones contributed eight.
It was the third straight year time that a Northern Carolina team has eliminated North Lenoir from the postseason. Two years ago, Southern Vance erased a double-digit deficit and stopped the Hawks on their homecourt. Last year, the Hawks traveled to Southern Vance and lost.
North Lenoir finished 24-3.
"It's just a shame that this good bunch of girls don't get the opportunity to continue (in the playoffs)," Floyd said.
2004 N.C. High School
Sectional No. 2 semifinals
(at N. Lenoir HS)
Bunn 8 19 7 16 -- 50
N. Lenoir 14 6 18 9 -- 47
April Cooke 2 0 0-1 4, Audri Hamm 0 0 0-0 0, Danita Cotton 2 2 0-2 10, Javita Cotton 0 0 2-3 2, Krystal Poyer 0 0 0-0 0, Jasmine Stewart 1 0 1-2 3, Shy Foster 2 0 0-0 4, Nakisha Stewart 9 0 5-8 23. TOTALS -- 16 2 8-16 50.
NORTH LENOIR (24-3)
Tiera Broadie 1 0 0-0 2, Shannon Plymouth 9 0 1-4 19, Sade Jones 1 0 0-0 2, Chanee Lynch 2 0 1-4 5, Lonnie Jones 4 0 0-4 8, Katy Maloney 3 0 3-4 9, Shalonia Newkirk 0 0 0-0 0, Tammy Moye 0 0 2-2 2. TOTALS -- 20 0 7-18 47.
Three-point baskets -- Bunn 2 (D. Cotton). Turnovers -- N. Lenoir 26, Bunn 36. Total fouls -- N. Lenoir 19, Bunn 17. Fouled out -- Broadie, Moye. Technicals -- none.
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