Princeton earns NCHSAA playoff berth with tournament win
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 16, 2005 1:57 PM
LITTLEFIELD - Princeton's men's basketball team had t-shirts printed in the offseason with "playoff bound" on the front and the number "15" on the back for the win total the Bulldogs hoped to accomplish.
Under second-year coach Jeff Davis, Princeton can now wear those shirts with pride having achieved both goals after a 59-41 win over Spring Creek in the quarterfinals of the Class 1-A Carolina Conference championship.
The Bulldogs and Gators entered the game with identical 7-5 league records -- good for a tie for the fourth and final N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff spot. Tuesday's game at Ayden-Grifton served as the tie-breaker as the Bulldogs locked up the fourth spot and will open the playoffs next Monday at the Super Six Conference's second seed.
Princeton first moves on to face top-seeded and archrival North Johnston in the tournament semifinals on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mount Olive's College Hall. Despite having secured a berth in the postseason, Davis doesn't believe his team will become content.
"They would rather beat North Johnston than the Los Angeles Lakers. I think we would be more concerned about being over-motivated for that game. " Davis said. "We've got to set new goals now. We want to win the conference tournament and win 20 games.
Spring Creek, which started the season at 6-1, finished with a 12-9 overall slate. The Gators -- known for their ability to score in bunches from behind the 3-point line and in transition -- never got into an offensive rhythm on Tuesday. Spring Creek finished a chilly, 2-for-27 from behind the arc and never scored more than 13 in a single period.
"Our attitudes were that every time that we pull the trigger that it's going in the hole," Spring Creek coach Sonny Kilpatrick said. "We were pitiful on 3-point shooting, and that's my fault because I didn't make them do what I needed them to do."
The Gators' leading scorer and senior team catalyst Josh Bishop turned his ankle late in the second period. Visibly in pain and limping, the senior guard returned and gutted out the second half but managed just four points after intermission.
"It wasn't about Josh going out. Four or five games ago we lost the edge. I don't really know what it was, but we lost it," Kilpatrick said. "You've got to hand it to Princeton, because they played their butts off tonight."
Fueled by an 18-2 run in the third period, Princeton turned a 28-23 halftime lead into a 17-point margin after three periods. Brandon Pate nailed two, 3-pointers during the run and finished with 10 points in the third, while teammate Karter Yutzy and Josh Thompson added four points each.
Yutzy led all scorers with 25 points -- including an emphatic slam dunk in the waning minutes to put an exclamation point on the win. Pate contributed 15 points as Thompson added 13.
"It's not just Karter this year. That's been our big key," Davis said.
Down by six points midway through the third, the Gators committed three straight turnovers that the Bulldogs turned into points on the other end. Princeton's lead quickly swelled to 44-29 and Spring Creek never fully recovered. In the second half, the Bulldogs outscored the Gators 31-18 as Spring Creek managed just five field goals after intermission.
"We played good defensively to hold them to 41. I think we just wanted to win more," Davis said. "They've (Spring Creek) got to be the best team in the state that isn't in the playoffs. We gave them one shot for the most part. Our goal was to contest every three and give them one shot.
"They have four guys who can shoot the ball, and they were just off tonight."
Spring Creek created a handful of turnovers to open the game and jumped out to a 10-4 lead, before Yutzy and the Bulldogs regrouped to go on an 8-0 spurt before period's end.
The Bulldogs ball-handling woes continued early in the second, but the Gators never managed to turn the steals into easy baskets or convert from long range. With 4:10 left in the second, Yutzy knocked down two-of-two at the line to put his team up 18-17. Princeton never trailed again the rest of the way.
The conference tourney win was the first for Princeton seniors Karter Yutzy, Bren Hall, Brandon Pate, Tyler Worley and Deandre Dublin. Spring Creek has knocked the Bulldogs out of the tournament the last three years.
"I've never played at Mount Olive or made the playoffs. We turned it on when we needed to and got it done," said Hall, one of handful of Bulldogs who were also a part of Princeton's state runner-up baseball team last Spring. "Winning in baseball definitely helped, because it gave us confidence."
Spring Creek graduates Bishop, Chris Wright, Mychael King, Devin Graves and Josh Bell from its 2004-2005 team.
North Duplin 37
LITTLEFIELD -- Ayden-Grifton's Glenn Edwards tallied a team-best 15 points as the Chargers defended their home floor with a 70-37 win over North Duplin in the second quarterfinal game of the night.
The win sends the second-seeded Chargers (14-8) into a semifinal match-up with archrival Farmville Central in the 8 p.m. night-cap at Mount Olive College on Thursday.
North Duplin's Matt Braswell finished with a game-high 16 points and scored all nine Rebel points in the first period. North Duplin, the tournament's seventh seed, battled in a defensive struggle with Ayden-Grifton through most of the first half before the Chargers opened up a 30-18 halftime lead.
Edwards was the lone double-digit scorer for Ayden-Grifton, but 12 of his teammates scored.
"Ayden-Grifton played extremely well, but I thought we played hard. These are good kids and they are fun to be around," North Duplin coach Ricky Edwards said. "We've just got to go to work in the gym from now until November."
Ryan Killette chipped in seven points for the Rebels.
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