Lady Cougars clinch third straight ECC title
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 30, 2005 2:02 AM
Chevoya Jackson couldn't remember the last time she finished a basketball game without a field goal.
So, on a night when she struggled offensively, Jackson did the next best thing. The junior point guard recorded a unique double-double -- 10 assists, 10 steals -- as leg-weary Goldsboro weathered a strong fourth-quarter rally and eased past South Central 50-36 on Friday evening.
The Cougar women (18-3, 13-0 ECC) seized their third consecutive Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference regular-season title and extended their conference win streak to 29 games. They earned the No. 1 seed for the ECC tournament and the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin Feb. 21.
Goldsboro's men twice erased nine-point deficits, but couldn't keep the momentum in a 77-73 loss to ECC leader South Central. The Cougars slipped to 7-6 in the league with contests remaining against rivals Eastern Wayne (Feb. 1), Kinston (Feb. 4) and Southern Wayne (Feb. 8).
"You can't ask for anything more," said Cougar coach Randy Jordan, whose team is now 11-9 overall. "You've got three of your biggest rivals right in a row. What a great way to finish the season."
Jackson missed all 12 field-goal attempts and finished with a season-low five points, but the Cougar women continued their unprecedented run against ECC opposition. Since the conference's inception in 2001-02, a Wayne County women's team has either emerged the outright champion or gained a share of the regular-season title.
Charles B. Aycock, led by Stefanie Warner, posted an unbeaten campaign in 2001-02. Goldsboro commandeered the county's reins by getting involved in the next three championships. The Cougars tied Kinston in 2002-03 before taking sole possession of the next two crowns.
Veteran women's coach Gladys McClary didn't expound on the conference championship, but she certainly lavished her team with compliments. McClary smiled proudly as she alluded to the team's focus and concentration, Jackson's ability to play through adversity and Carmille Early's ferocity on the baseline.
"I am so proud of these girls tonight," McClary said. "They came out and played with such intensity from the start. They got down the floor in transition and I think that's what hurt South Central a lot because we got easy baskets that way."
Jackson missed two open-court layups in the first period and immediately applied a different strategy. The quick-handed Jackson dished out six assists on three field goals each to Ashelyn James and Jessica Faison.
The low-post offense bothered South Central defensively. But the Falcons stayed within less than 10 points with a solid effort on the boards, limiting the Cougars to one shot when they missed.
"I kept my head up playing defense and relied on my teammates," said Jackson, who also had four first-quarter steals. "We've been working on the post game in practice and since I couldn't get my shot off tonight, I looked for Ashleyn and Jessica in the post.
"Everybody did a good job."
Goldsboro built a 36-17 advantage in the third quarter, only to see South Central (11-9, 8-5) answer with a monster 16-5 run. The Falcon guards started penetrating and forced the defense to pinch the middle, which led to open looks on the perimeter.
South Central either hit the initial shot or crashed the boards for second-chance opportunities. The Falcons cashed in a couple of putbacks and also benefited at the free throw line.
Kemia Smith's 19-footer, off Karen Harkle's assist, trimmed the Cougars' lead to 41-33 with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.
"I think it was fatigue," Jackson said. "In practice, we run at a fast pace, but we slow it down in a regular game. Today, they ran up and down with us, so we were tired."
But the Cougars, now 18-0 when leading at halftime, connected on 10 of 14 free throws in the final period to avert the upset. James and Faison combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds as Goldsboro defeated a conference opponent for the 50th time in 57 regular-season outings.
On the men's side, Daquan Joyner got untracked in the fourth quarter and Tim Kornegay played his usual slashing style to forge a 58-58 tie with 5:45 left in the game. Kornegay's old-fashioned three-point play capped a 10-3 run.
"We were doing a great job of getting inside position, but we have to look down inside a little more," Jordan said of the game-tying surge. "We need to take advantage of our size."
South Central's Montarrio Haddock, a certain ECC player of the year candidate, scored six straight points in a 10-0 Falcon run. The Cougars whittled the deficit to 69-68 on Kornegay's driving layup with 1:30 on the clock.
The Falcons maintained a three-point lead the rest of the way en route to their program-best 11th conference victory. Haddock pumped in 23 points, followed by Montel Smith (20), Jonathan Williams (11) and Jamale Burrus (10).
"I'm thought we played hard," Jordan said. "I'm very pleased with the effort and intensity the kids showed. We played well enough to win and we deserved to win."
Kornegay led three Cougars in double figures with 26 points. Raheem Lofton provided 11 points. Joyner ended up with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
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