02/16/05 — Business-like Hawks romp to open EPC tourney

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Business-like Hawks romp to open EPC tourney

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 16, 2005 1:58 PM

LAGRANGE - Business as usual with an extra incentive.

The North Lenoir men's basketball team is taking that approach in the Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference tournament and warns opponents to beware -- the Hawks are on a mission.

The current senior class has yet to claim an EPC tournament title, but they moved one step closer Tuesday evening. Justin Dunn and Omar Jones each turned in 20-point efforts as the third-seeded Hawks dumped sixth-seeded SouthWest Edgecombe 84-61 in Wooten Gymnasium.

The lop-sided victory over the Cougars sets up a showdown against archrival Greene Central in the semifinals. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday in Snow Hill.

"We know we're the best team in this conference and we're out to prove that we're the best team in this conference," Hawks coach Paul Dunn III said. "We're ready to take over and move to another level. We're on a mission."

Dunn began pulling his starters with just under six minutes remaining in regulation. Twelve Hawks scratched in the scoring column as they claimed their 12th home win of the season in 13 tries. The lone loss occurred against Greene Central on Feb. 1. Since then, North Lenoir (19-5) has reeled off four consecutive wins and averaged 85-plus points per outing.

Greene Central (17-7) swept the regular-season series for the first time since 2001 when Linc Lyles guided the Rams to the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regional semifinals.

"We don't mind being the underdog now," Dunn said. "No one thinks we can beat Greene Central."

SouthWest coach Dudley Etheridge might argue that point.

The Hawks never gave the Cougars any hope of pulling off a monumental upset. They shot 57.8 percent (11 of 19) from the floor in the opening quarter and built a commanding 29-10 lead.

North Lenoir kept that advantage for most of the game and handed SouthWest, in its final season of EPC competition, its fourth tournament loss with Etheridge as head coach. The Cougars move into a 3-A league next season that includes Southern Nash, Northern Nash, Nash Central, Rocky Mount and Wilson Fike.

Adrian Brewer finished with 11 points for the Hawks.

The Cougars' Jarrett Eason emerged the game's top scorer with 23 points, including 21 in the second and third quarters combined. Teammate Walter Randolph provided 13 points as SouthWest finished the year 8-17.

"We really didn't want to look over SouthWest because we beat them two times, but it's always hard to beat a team three times," Justin Dunn said. "We knew we were the big favorites. We just wanted to come in, play hard and get the game out of the way so we could really focus on Greene Central."

Notes: Justin Dunn boosted his season scoring total to 485 and career total to 1682. ... Officials whistled the Hawks for just seven fouls in the up-tempo game. ... North Lenoir hit seven 3-pointers, giving it 117 as a team for the season. ... The Hawks averaged 85.7 points in three victories against SouthWest this season.