02/24/05 — Saints make second-round playoff exit

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Saints make second-round playoff exit

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on February 24, 2005 2:19 PM

DUDLEY - This group of Vikings is riding quite a wave.

Freshman forward Donovan Ingram led five Kinston High players in double-figure scoring with 20 points, and the Vikings continued their late-season resurgence Wednesday night with an 81-78 win at Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference regular-season champion Southern Wayne in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 3-A playoffs.

Since starting the season 4-5, the Vikings have gone 15-4 -- a stretch that carries them into the Section 3 title game at ECC 3-A tournament champion South Central on Friday.

Steven Sherrod converted a 3-point play with 3 seconds remaining to secure the trip to South Central, which defeated Kinston (19-9) in last week's ECC 3-A tournament final.

"Are we peaking at the right time? Certainly," Vikings coach Wells Gulledge said. "You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the year. If we stay focused, there's a lot of potential."

Kinston was swept in ECC 3-A play by the Saints before finally breaking through in its third attempt.

"I think we were more focused tonight," Gulledge said. "I think we were just totally focused tonight."

Southern Wayne (16-10) fell despite a career-high 31 points and seven rebounds from junior guard Delawn Armwood.

Armwood and the Saints' four other starters will all return next season to defend their conference title -- leaving coach Mike Connelly with much optimism for his second season in Dudley.

His team's 27-rebound performance also left the former Charlotte Myers Park coach with a healthy dose of realism, too.

"I'm optimistic, but we've got work to do," Connelly said. "We've got to work really hard. We need to get physically stronger. We're going to weed out the players that don't want to work really hard. We're not going to get outworked.

"Twenty-seven rebounds is an amazing stat to me. I'm surprised we didn't get beaten worse with only 27 rebounds. I've told our guys that we need to grab around 44 rebounds each time out to win."

The Saints concluded the season by losing three of their final five games.

Kinston was a mere 9-of-17 from the free-throw line over the final 1:48 -- a recurring theme from its 48-46 first-round win at Wilson Fike on Monday -- to give Southern Wayne hope until the final buzzer.

"We had a chance to put the game away at the foul line," Gulledge said. "They extended that final 90 seconds into about 25 minutes. We've got to do a better job with our free throws if we want to see another night."

Miguel Stankey scored two of his 12 points on a driving layup early in the second quarter to cap a 13-5 run and put the Vikings ahead 26-14.

Kinston would keep the lead the remainder of the game.

Ingram scored 17 first-half points to help the Vikings claim a 42-33 lead at the break, but picked up three fouls in less than three minutes at the start of the third quarter.

With Ingram -- who fouled out late after failing to produce a single second-half field goal -- relegated to the bench in foul trouble, the Saints reeled off a 12-3 run.

"I thought Donovan did a great job for us offensively," Gulledge said. "He just came out and wasn't moving his feet early in the second half. Southern Wayne did a better job of attacking us in the second half, and we got caught up in that a couple times."

Saints junior guard Akeem Royal scored 10 of his 16 points during the fourth quarter to ensure the Vikings would have to sweat out the final seconds at the free-throw line.

Derrick Garris and Austin Hood scored nine points each for Southern Wayne.

"We never gave up," Connelly said. "I thought we played really hard. I didn't expect us to give up, and we didn't give up."

Notes: Southern Wayne received an opening-round bye, giving the Saints an eight-day layoff between the ECC 3-A tournament and the NCHSAA playoffs. ... Southern Wayne was 6-of-15 from behind the 3-point arc. ... Both teams committed 13 turnovers each. ... Teyon Marshall and J'mell Walters scored 11 points each for Kinston. ... Royal had a team-high nine rebounds. ... Sherrod finished with 10 points.