01/09/05 — Gators improve to 3-1 in Class 1-A Carolina Conference

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Gators improve to 3-1 in Class 1-A Carolina Conference

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on January 9, 2005 2:01 AM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Before his free throws Friday night against Farmville Central, Spring Creek's Chris Wright spun the ball, took two dribbles, then swirled the ball behind his back.

It was the first time the senior guard used the pre-shot ritual in a game situation. Look for the new-found technique to stick.

On a night where the Gators were a sparkling 17-of-20 from the foul line, Wright stepped up and drained five-of-five in the final minute as he and fellow senior, Josh Bishop, helped propel Spring Creek to an 85-82 win over the Jaguars. Bishop poured in 14, clutch fourth-period points and finished with 30 on the night -- four away from his season-high.

With the Jaguar defense focused on Bishop, Wright also drained a big 3-pointer from the top of the key with 40 seconds left to put the Gators up 79-78. After putting Spring Creek ahead by three on two makes at the line, Wright also stole a Farmville inbounds pass in the waning seconds.

"I was just playing around with it in gym class after the game and I told my buddies I was going to do it in the game," Wright said about the new free throw style. "I kept missing free throws for nothing, so I had to try something new. We had to come up big tonight."

The win snapped Spring Creek's three-game losing streak as the Gators (8-3) improved to 3-1 in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference. The Jaguars (5-4) exited the game 1-2 in conference play.

"Those losses hurt. We could have done one of two things tonight," Spring Creek coach Sonny Kilpatrick said. "We could have stepped it up and get back to where we were, or we could have folded it up and quit. My guys are winners. They don't want to lose."

Bishop and Wright (14 points) were two of four Gators in double figures. Cliff Wilson went seven-of-seven at the line and added 14, while Mychael King dropped in 12 down low.

Bishop hit four 3-pointers as the Gators made eight total from beyond the arc.

Spring Creek needed every bit of that stout offensive effort on Friday as Farmville Central matched the Gators, basket-for-basket, for most of the night. During a four-minute stretch to start the second half, the two teams combined for eight 3-pointers. Wilson added one 3-point play the hard way by making three-of-three near the end of the scoring barrage.

Farmville's Jarvis Dixon did his fair share underneath for the Jags with 16 points, getting to the line and making six of eight. Michael Flower contributed 15 with Justin Foskey, Lorenzo Watts and Terrell Bennett also posting double-figure nights.

"We've got a good strong conference from top to bottom, and you've got to win at home," Kilpatrick said. "From the very opening tip-off, to the very last second, it was total concentration and focus. There was no chance to sit back and catch your breath. I love those kind of games.

"If the crowd didn't love that game tonight, they don't love basketball."

Farmville held a 72-69 lead with 3:10 left in the game, before the Gators' Josh Wright made two-of-two to give his team a 73-72 margin nearly one minute later. Farmville got the lead once more in the frantic, final quarter.

The Gators built the largest lead of the game at 35-27 midway through the second as King tallied eight points in the period. In the first five minutes of the second, the Gators outscored Farmville 17-8.

In the women's game, the Jaguars' Megan Zullo scored 21 points to lead all scorers in Farmville's easy 81-23 win. Teammate Meaghan Vanderhorst added 18 points as the Jags (8-2) improved to 2-1 in conference play.

With pressure defense, Farmville forced 16 turnovers in the first period and rolled to a 24-3 from the start. The Jags went on to a 43-14 advantage at halftime.

"I tell them every day you have to protect the ball, box out and meet the ball. One day it's going to sink in to them. You just have to keep on and keep on," Spring Creek coach Mandy Ramjford said. "As long as my girls come out and give me 100 percent on defense, our offense is going to come along."

Foul trouble plagued Spring Creek (1-12, 0-4) throughout the game as primary ball-handler, Troia Morgan and key post performer Tomeka Pride each picked up early fouls.

Vanity Brooks came off the bench to lead the Gators with six points.

Both teams return to Carolina action on Tuesday as Spring Creek hosts Ayden-Grifton and Farmville entertains North Duplin.