02/11/05 — Saints close out regular season strong

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Saints close out regular season strong

Published in Sports on February 11, 2005 2:02 PM

DUDLEY - After splitting their games with West Craven, it's on to the playoffs for both Southern Wayne basketball teams.

Mike Connelly's men will have the weekend to enjoy their 101-73 rout of the Eagles. Their 13-3 record earned them the number one seed in Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference action. They will take on the winner of the West Craven-Washington play-in game Monday night at home. As long as they continue to win, they will maintain the home-court advantage.

Coach Sally Combs' Lady Saints, a 42-30 loser, will swing back into action Saturday against Washington. They nailed down a berth in the play-in.

It took only nine seconds to dispel Connelly's fear that his club wouldn't have anything left for their guests after their nail-biter with Goldsboro High Tuesday night. Akeem Royal grabbed the opening tip, raced to the top of the key and swished his three-point attempt.

Southern Wayne then proceeded to show that they were gelling as a team just in time for the playoffs. Three other starters made the score 11-2 off an 8-2 run. Justin Bellamy canned the first of his three-pointers at the four minute mark to move the lead to double figures, 16-6, for the first time.

While West Craven got sparkling performances from Anthony Culbertson, high scorer on the night with 27 points, and Tony Jones who had 21 points, the duo was no match for the eight Saints who were at or close to double figures. Delawn Armwood led the way with 20 points.

Antonio Davis' jumper increased the margin to 20, midway through the second quarter. West Craven's Corey Wilson's two foul shots with seconds remaining in the game, averted a 30 point lead.

"Great teams have balanced scoring," said Connelly. "Our players are unselfish enough to go with who is hot."

Connelly also pointed to his depth on the bench as another crucial factor in his team's success.

"Every team has one or two monster players," he said. "Our depth helps us keep 'fresh legs' on the court that wears the other team down. Another plus is that it gets more players on the court."

Senior center Rico Whitfield played his last regular season game on his home Dudley court.

"Rico has provided us with some badly needed height and strength under the boards," said Connelly. "We will miss him next year."

Five Lady Saints were also recognized on Senior Night.

Combs praised the efforts of Dionne Dotson, Shelonda Smith, Demiri Blount, Danielle Wilkins, and Talisa Robinson, not only on the court, but in the classroom as well.

"While some are being recruited to play at the next level," she said. "All will be going on to the college of their choice to pursue a wide variety of majors."

Fundamental lapses hurt the team all night. They were down 9-0, before Smith scored the first points at 2:36 of the first period. Baskets by Wilkins, Dotson, and Shakoria Clark got the deficit back to five at 13-8, but that was as close as they would get for the remainder of the game.