02/02/05 — Lomonaco's clutch play lands N. Johnston men in first place

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Lomonaco's clutch play lands N. Johnston men in first place

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on February 2, 2005 1:55 PM

KENLY - Senior guard Jake Lomonaco converted a 3-point play with 9.2 seconds remaining Tuesday night to lift the North Johnston men's basketball team to a 58-56 win over archrival Princeton.

Lomonaco finished with 16 points as the Panthers overcame a 5-of-16 showing from the free-throw line to improve to 7-2 in Class 1-A Carolina Conference play.

North Johnston (14-5 overall) now leads in the conference standings -- former front-runner Spring Creek was upset 66-64 at Farmville Central earlier in the night -- and seems a lock for one of four allotted NCHSAA playoff spots.

"This was a hard-fought game, and it's good to come out on top," North Johnston coach Derrick Johnson said. "We missed a bunch of free throws early. I was disappointed in that. But I'm proud of how we stepped up at the end."

The Bulldogs (14-6 overall, 6-4 Carolina Conference) missed an opportunity to pull out their fifth straight win when senior forward Karter Yutzy was called for a double-dribble with 5.6 seconds left.

Yutzy had a game-high 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

"If we could've made one more play ... one more play and we win the ballgame," Princeton coach Jeff Davis said. "I thought we had them. I'm proud of our guys, but this one hurts."

A 3-pointer by Yutzy gave the Bulldogs a 27-18 lead -- the biggest for either side on the night -- with 2:55 to go in the first half.

North Johnston responded with a 9-2 run to trail 29-27 at the break. After that, Lomonaco took over.

Lomonaco scored eight third-quarter points to help the Panthers overcome foul problems and take a 45-43 advantage into the final eight minutes.

Post players Willie Smith (14 points) and Damien Allen (14 points) carried four fouls each throughout the fourth quarter, and guard Brandon Sanders fouled out with 4:42 remaining.

"That hurt," Johnson said of his team's late foul troubles. "Willie was forced to play a little more tentatively than I would've liked. He allowed some baskets down low that he shouldn't have allowed."

Yutzy hit a 17-foot jumper to give Princeton its final lead at 56-54 with 16.6 seconds remaining.

Yutzy finished 6-of-14 from the field. For the first time in two weeks, his numbers wouldn't be good enough to carry the Bulldogs, ranked No. 8 in the latest NCPreps.com 1-A poll.

Princeton must now wait for another day to wrap up its first playoff berth in recent memory. The Bulldogs travel to Sampson Union in a non-conference matchup tonight.

"It was just two good teams going at it tonight," Davis said. "I knew this was going to be a very balanced conference. By next Tuesday, we might be in fifth place. There are just so many good teams in this conference."

Josh Thompson scored 12 points and was 8-of-8 from the free-throw line for Princeton.

Notes: Princeton defeated North Johnston 67-58 on Jan. 7. ... Yutzy banged his head against the baseline wall while chasing down a loose ball during the fourth quarter. He sat out only a few moments and showed no ill effects. ... Princeton G Brandon Pate hit two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points. ... Sanders scored four points. ... Each team committed 13 turnovers. ... North Johnston hosts conference foe Rosewood on Friday night.