01/19/05 — South Central knocks Southern Wayne from first place in ECC

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South Central knocks Southern Wayne from first place in ECC

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 19, 2005 2:06 PM

DUDLEY - Mike Connelley scanned the stat sheets spread out on his desk. Only one statistic, turnovers, glared before him while another intangible -- patience -- bothered the first-year Southern Wayne boys' basketball coach.

Free throws hurt the Saints, too. A late fourth-quarter collapse and crucial, missed opportunities at the line aided South Central's come-from-behind 82-78 victory. The Falcons seized sole possession of first place in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference.

"I feel bad for the kids because we did come back and play such a great third quarter, and such a great four minutes of the fourth quarter," Connelley said. "That was as fine as a 12 minutes we could play. With the last three minutes, obviously, we have a lot of work to do."

The Saints (10-7) trailed by as many as 10 points early in the third quarter, but slowly climbed back into the game. Akeem Royal's 3-pointer, one of six on the night, continued a run as Southern Wayne grabbed its first lead at 49-48.

The teams traded baskets before Royal's baseline jumper and Rico Whitfield's tap-in tied the score at 53-53. Terriel Troublefield put the Saints back in front and Justin Bellamy nailed his only 3-pointer from the right corner as time expired.

Connelley's team led 58-54.

Royal, who collected a game-high 27 points, buried an NBA-range 3-pointer to start the third quarter. That gave the Saints their biggest lead at 62-54, but the Falcons slowly chipped away.

Playing a scrambling-type defense and showing its physical strength on the boards, South Central climbed to within 73-71 with 2:36 remaining. Jonathan Williams' steal and layup knotted the game at 73-73 and the see-saw battle continued.

Another turnover led to Jamal Cross' uncontested layup, pushing the Falcons ahead 75-73. The visitors kept a one- or two-point lead, but the Saints had their chances. They missed five free throws within a 30-second span, including three straight from Antonio Davis with 7.8 seconds on the clock.

"As a player, that's the position you want to be in," Connelley said. "In your mind, you always make them. Antonio took a good shot, got fouled and almost had a four-point play. But it shouldn't have boiled down to that."

But Connelley referred to the turnovers, four which led to seven South Central points in the final two minutes. Poor decisions handling the ball hampered the Saints, who were looking to gain a little breathing room against their ECC opponents.

"It wasn't defensive pressure or anything, just throwing the ball away," said Connelley, whose team committed 15 turnovers. "We've obviously got to do a better job and it's been a nemesis all year.

"We have to do a better job at the end of the game."

Delawn Armwood complemented Royal with a 17-point effort. Davis chipped in 12, while Troublefield provided 10 points. The Saints shot 11 of 21 at the free throw line, including 5 for 12 in the final period.

Williams paced South Central with 24 points, while Montarrio Haddock contributed 18. Haddock recorded his 11th straight double-figure outing and 14th overall this season. Montel Smith added 15. Jamal Burrus and Jamal Cross contributed 14 and 10 points, respectively.

South Central's girls shook off a sluggish first half and 17 traveling violations to post a 37-27 score. The Falcons (9-7) claimed their fourth straight win and tied Kinston for second place in the ECC at 6-3.

"We feel like we're marching to the right drum right now and feel like we're where we need to be," South Central coach Mary Bryan Carlyle said. "We've just got to polish some things. We're executing, but we're not finishing."

The teams sludged their way through a low-scoring first half with the Falcons leading 10-9 at the break. Southern Wayne forged ahead 15-12 midway through the third quarter, until an inbounds pass -- after a timeout -- swung the momentum in South Central's favor.

Kemia Smith, who tallied a game-high 14 points, started an 11-1 run with a 3-pointer from the right corner.

"Our defense broke down," Saints coach Sally Combs said. "The girl who was supposed to get out there and cover that, didn't do it. It was a mental lapse, whatever the reason. Yeah, it was a back breaker."

Smith converted a back-door layup off Karen Harker's assist and tapped in a missed shot by Arecia Moore to make it 20-15. Jordan Vines added a free throw and Smith tapped in another miss to cap the run at 23-16.

Southern Wayne didn't quit.

Dionne Dotson banged in a running one-hander and Talisa Robinson added a free throw to trim the deficit to 25-21. Down 29-27, the Saints failed to convert on three offensive rebounds and the Falcons finished the game with an 8-0 run.

"We can't throw it in the ocean when we're under the basket," Combs said. "I don't know what I have to do to get these girls to make a basket underneath. We pound the heck out of it in practice, but we get in a game and they lose focus."

The Saints hit more free throws (11) than field goals (8).

Notes: South Central's girls are 5-4 on the road, while the boys are 6-2. ... The Saints and Falcon girls combined to attempt 43 free throws, while combining for 49 turnovers. ... It's the final regular-season meeting between the two schools as South Central heads to a 3-A/4-A combination league next season.