Warrior boys fall to Blue Devils
Published in Sports on December 30, 2004 1:55 PM
LAGRANGE -- Forget the how or why South Lenoir boys basketball coach Jimmy Smith was just glad to get out of Wooten Gymnasium with a win.
"We lost five games in this building last year," Smith said after his team defeated Eastern Wayne 45-36 in the opening round of The Free Press Holiday Invitational Wednesday.
"Whatever the reason, I'm happy that our luck here has started to change."
South Lenoir will face archrival North Lenoir at 8 p.m. today in the Invitational's championship game. The two teams played four times last season with North Lenoir winning the final three at Wooten Gym.
The Blue Devils dropped those three games at North Lenoir last season and were beaten twice in last year's Invitational, including an 18-point rout at the hands of Eastern Wayne.
And although the Warriors returned almost everybody from last year's team, South Lenoir was ready.
"We knew they were bigger and more athletic," Smith said. "We had to do something to counteract that."
What the Devils did was utilize a patient offense that emphasized ball movement, and an uncharacteristic zone defense that bottled up Eastern Wayne's inside-outside duo of Chris Campbell and Justin Richardson.
"Richardson can penetrate on anybody and the big kid (Campbell) is a load inside," Smith said. "We knew we couldn't match-up with them one-on-one."
Although Richardson scored 14 points and the 6-foot 5-inch Campbell added 11, the damage they inflicted was minimal, especially in the fourth quarter when they combined for one point.
South Lenoir (5-3) took the lead for good at 34-32 on a bucket by Brandon Rouse with 6:01 to play. Campbell followed with a free throw 17 seconds later, and then South Lenoir's Josh Kennedy scored eight of the game's next 10 points to send the Devils to today's championship game.
Kennedy paced South Lenoir with 14 points, while Paul Novicki contributed 11.
Novicki scored the Devilâs first eight points as they rallied from an early 4-0 deficit.
South Lenoir led by as many as 10 points (22-12) in the first half before Eastern Wayne rallied to grab a 32-26 advantage late in the third quarter.
"We showed some resiliency," Smith said. "It would have been easy to pack it in after they came back and took the lead."
The Devils will need to show some resiliency in tonight's championship game against North Lenoir, which defeated Spring Creek, 64-54, in the first round.
"They're a great team and it's going to be tough," Smith said. "But no matter what, we're coming out of this tournament with at least one win."
Eastern Wayne 8 8 16 4 -- 36
South Lenoir 14 8 8 1 -- 45
Justin Richardson 14, Chris Campbell 11, Rouse 2, Kendrick 5, Downes 2, Ward 2.
Josh Kennedy 14, Paul Novicki 11, Dove 6, Rouse 4, Rogers 4, Dunn 2, Skinner 4.
By KEITH SPENCE
Free Press Correspondent
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