02/20/05 — Dunn leads N. Lenoir to EPC 2-A tourney crown

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Dunn leads N. Lenoir to EPC 2-A tourney crown

Published in Sports on February 20, 2005 2:01 AM

LAGRANGE - North Lenoir standout Justin Dunn certainly earned his Eastern Plains 2A tournament Most Valuable Player honors on Friday night.

The senior guard only scored two of his 17 points in the fourth quarter of his team's 63-59 win in the Class 2-A Eastern plains Conference championship game against North Pitt. But it was when he scored those points that made the difference in the outcome of the contest.

With his team clinging to a 59-57 lead and only 14.2 seconds remaining in the game, Dunn stepped to the line and calmly swished two free throws that essentially put the game out of reach.

"We shoot so many free throws in practice every day, there really wasn't any pressure," said Dunn, who hit 11 of 12 foul shots in the game. "I just went out there and knocked them down."

The win means the third-seeded Hawks (20-5) not only won the EPC tourney title, they will live to play another game. If North Pitt, the EPC's No. 4 seed, had won Friday, North Lenoir would not have advanced to next week's state playoffs. The EPC only sent three teams (top-seeded South Lenoir, North Lenoir and No. 3 Greene Central) to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2A playoffs this season.

"No one gave us a chance to win this thing," said North Lenoir coach Paul Dunn III, whose team plays host to Eastern Alamance, the Mid-State 2A's No. 3 team, on Monday. "But we've set high expectations for ourselves. We've got to keep an even keel the rest of the way through."

North Pitt -- a team that played the entire EPC regular season and tournament without its best player, Ryan Little, due to an injury -- gave the Hawks everything they could handle. The Panthers (15-10) led for much of the first half before a late spurt gave the Hawks a two-point halftime lead.

The game remained close until late in the third quarter, when North Lenoir closed the frame with a 6-1 run. Two baskets from Dunn, along with a long jumpshot from Antwan Wiggins, helped break a 37-37 tie.

A spectacular play from Wiggins to open the fourth quarter provided the Hawks a bit of a cushion. Only eight seconds into the final period, Wiggins pulled up from 22 feet and buried a 3-pointer while being fouled. The sophomore -- who has been sick with the flu for the past two weeks -- knocked the free throw down to give the Hawks a 47-38 lead.

The Panthers were led by Joseph Staton's 16 points. Jeremy Wilder had 12 points for North Pitt, while Ronnie Crandol added 10. Staton and Wilder were named to the all-tournament team, along with South Lenoir's Brandon Rouse and Greene Central's Teddie Waters.

"We played without our league MVP all season," said North Pitt coach Gregg Ashorn. "For this team to go 5-5 in the conference and to play in the conference tournament championship game yet again shows their heart."

North Lenoir was led by Jones' 20 points. Dunn scored 17 for the Hawks. While Dunn earned the MVP, Jones and Samuel Edwards were placed on the all-tournament team.

Southwest Edgecombe won the EPC girls title against Tarboro in the early game. SW Edgecombe's Geya Norwood earned the tourney MVP, while Greene Central's Briana Stanton and North Lenoir's Carla Miller were named to the all-tournament team.