Hawks head for Greenville
By David Williams
Published in Sports on March 2, 2004 1:57 PM
LAGRANGE -- Charlie Stevens had a goal for his North Lenoir basketball team when he started the season -- to get back to the regionals after last season's semifinal loss in Greenville.
He knew he had the team to do it. But he had one worry.
"I knew this club had the talent to get back there if I didn't screw it up," Stevens said. "And I almost did."
Fortunately for Stevens, Justin Dunn is nearly impossible to put too far off kilter.
Dunn scored a game-high 26 points as he carried his team to from a 13-point deficit to beat arch-rival South Lenoir 78-72 in overtime to win the N.C. High School Athletic Association's Class 2-A sectional championship for the second straight year.
The Hawks (24-5) will face East Bladen Friday night at Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on the campus of East Carolina University, to open regional play. The winner of that game will play Saturday for the right to play for the 2-A state championship.
South Lenoir, who gamely fought from a No. 3 seeding to the sectional championship game, ended its season at 19-10.
It seemed in the early going that the Blue Devils would make mincemeat of the Hawks. South Lenoir used Josh Kennedy -- who transferred from North Lenoir to South Lenoir in January -- to light up Wooten Gym in front of a jam-packed and energetic crowd. Kennedy hit three big early three-pointers and had 15 points in the opening half as South Lenoir opened on a 17-5 run and led 22-8 after one period.
North Lenoir got the long ball going in the second period as John Cobb, Leon Best and Samuel Edwards all dialed up three-pointers. Dunn had a dunk and hot five-of-six from the line, but the Hawks were out of sync offensively and missing rebounds to the smaller Blur Devils.
Down 38-25 at half, Stevens got his team playing a trapping defense and overplayed the South Lenoir pass lanes. It worked as the Blue Devils coughed up the ball 23 times to give the Hawks an opening.
That was all the kick-start the North Lenoir offense needed. Mason drove the lane and scored eight of his 12 points in the third period as the Hawks began to shave down the lead. In the final period, North Lenoir blew past the Blue Devils to close the gap up. Dunn never missed another free throw, going an astounding 13-for-14 for the game.
But it was Dunn's huge three-pointer off a Mason screen with 20 seconds to play that tied the game up at 63-63 and got the game into overtime.
"If Justin Dunn isn't all-state, then there's something wrong." said Stevens, who compares the talented guard to former Goldsboro High School standout Chris Tann.
In the extra period, South Lenoir's Dontrae Rhem tried to lead another Blue Devil surge, but his six points was countered with a basket from E.J. Brown and a Dunn slam-dunk. Kevin Lee, quiet for most of the night, and four points in the extra frame. He hit big free throws in the final minute, along with Samuel Edwards and Dunn, who got the clinching points with 10 seconds to play.
Kennedy had just three points in the second half, but led the Blue Devils with 18 points. Rhem had 16 for the game, while Khalice Dove had 13 and Terry Edwards had 10.
Cobb and Mason both had 12 points for North Lenoir to compliment Dunn's 26-point effort.
"We are in the final four now, and anything can happen," said Stevens, who will make his third trip to the regionals since 1998. "I can tell you this -- this team deserves to be there. They are going to be a tough team to beat."
South Lenoir 22 16 13 12 9 -- 72
North Lenoir 8 17 16 22 15 -- 78
SOUTH LENOIR (19-10)
Josh Kennedy 4 3 1-2 18, Dontrae Rhem 6 0 4-8 16, Khalice Dove 4 1 2-4 13, Terry Edwards 3 0 4-7 10, Paul Novicki 0 1 4-4 7, Dylan Jones 0 0 3-4 3, Brandon Rouse 0 0 2-2 2, Mark Tyndall 1 0 0-2 2, Tyronne Dodd 0 0 0-1 0. TOTALS -- 18 5 21-35 72.
NORTH LENOIR (24-5)
Justin Dunn 5 1 13-14 26, John Cobb 1 2 4-5 12, Jamie Mason 4 0 4-4 12, Leon Best 1 2 0-0 8, Kevin Lee 2 0 3-6 7, Samuel Edwards 1 1 1-2 6, E.J. Brown 1 0 2-2 4, Omar Jones 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 16 6 27-33 78.
Three-point baskets -- South Lenoir 5 (Kennedy 3, Novicki, Dove), North Lenoir 6 (Cobb 2, Best 2, Dunn, Edwards). Turnovers -- South Lenoir 27, North Lenoir 14. Total fouls -- South Lenoir 22. North Lenoir 26. Fouled out -- Kennedy, Novicki, Rhem, Mason, Best. Technicals -- none.
Other Local Sports
- Wayne County rally falls short
- Wayne County 10U All-Stars advance
- OUTDOORS - Ladyfish pack big bite
- senior legion boxscore
- Junior legion teams enjoy victories
- Edenton takes series lead against Wayne County
- Wayne North avenges loss to Wayne South
- Zach Wright will play in showcase game
- OPINION- Some athletes should fade away
- Edenton beats Post 11 to even series