Gators win overtime thriller
Published in Sports on February 8, 2006 2:22 PM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Getting dressed can sometimes be a tough task for a high school student. The questions are endless. Khakis or Jeans? Boxers or Briefs? Button-down or hooded sweatshirt? But Spring Creek guard Dalreese Bell went to sleep on Tuesday night with his wardrobe already settled.
He plans to wear his purple and gold Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Los Angeles Lakers jersey in honor of his game-tying baby hook shot over 6-foot-7 North Johnston center Willie Smith.
"I can't wait to get to school," a grinning Bell said after his buzzer-beating shot knotted the Carolina 1-A Conference game at 51-51 and sparked the Gators to a 73-64 overtime victory.
The win gave Spring Creek a 6-3 conference record (10-13 overall) and hopes for a second place tie if North Johnston (7-2, 9-7) loses on Friday and the Gators close out the regular season with a win.
The dramatic play almost didn't happen. Smith missed a dunk with less than 15 seconds to play that would have put the Panthers ahead 53-49. Brandon Sanders got the rebound, was fouled, and missed the front end of a one-and-one. Cliff Wilson grabbed the rebound and called timeout.
Spring Creek coach Sonny Kilpatrick said he started to draw up a play that would have resulted in a three-point try, but he changed his mind.
"(Since) we were at home, I figured we could play for the tie and win it in overtime," Kilpatrick said.
With just 7.4 seconds to play, Bell received the inbounds pass from Wilson near the Gators' basket, which meant he had to travel nearly the length of the court for the tying shot. He quickly moved through the half-court traffic, and just outside of the three point line, he hesitated and then darted right at Smith, who was camped out under the basket.
"I didn't want to foul him, because I didn't want him to make it and get an 'and-one,'" Smith said. "So I just stood my ground, played good 'D,' and he made a good-looking shot."
Bell's shot was just one of Spring Creek's aggressive inside moves against Smith in an exciting fourth quarter that saw five lead-changes and five ties. Junior guard Josh Wright (9 points) scored seven of Spring Creek's 11 points in the quarter.
Kilpatrick said the game-tying play called for Bell to come around a screen and take a jumper, but Bell said he decided against it when he saw the clock running down.
"I was hoping to get a foul, instead, I got a basket," Bell said.
Pumping his fist as the buzzer sounded, Bell ran toward the Gators' bench and was mobbed by his teammates.
His momentum continued during the first part of the four-minute overtime period, when he made two free-throws and a 3-pointer to put Spring Creek up 56-51.
"He's a phenomenal player," Kilpatrick said. "I think that basket loosened him up."
Wilson, who led Spring Creek with 21 points, then converted a 3-point play with 2:45 to go that gave the Gators an eight point lead before Brandon Sanders scored North Johnston's first overtime basket.
Smith, who scored 12 points and altered numerous shots, fouled out of the game on Wilson's lay-up.
It was fitting that Wilson and Bell made Spring Creek's final two field goals -- Wilson, his second 3-pointer of the game, and Bell a floating left-hander -- before North Johnston began fouling the Gators in an attempt to claw back into the game.
Spring Creek made 9-of-13 free-throws in the game's final moments.
After enduring a nine-game losing streak in the middle of the season, Kilpatrick said the Gators are now playing so well that they can beat any team in their conference.
"I'm real pleased with my guys this year," he said. "We're beginning to peak. A game like tonight gives the kids a lot of confidence."
The thrilling conclusion to the boys contest rewarded those fans who watched a slow, disjointed girls game, which North Johnston won 34-19.
The game was defined by 45 Spring Creek turnovers and a scoreless second quarter for coach Mandy Ramfjord's Lady Gators. Brittani Billups' height and aggressive defense stymied North Johnston in the first quarter, but the Lady Panthers outscored Spring Creek 8-0 in the second quarter and took a 14-6 lead into halftime.
Spring Creek only had three open shots in the quarter and had difficulty moving the ball past half court against North Johnston's full-court defense.
"Turnovers have been our problem from day one," Ramfjord said. "Mentally, we were just not in the game tonight."
The loss dropped Spring Creek to 4-5 in the conference (5-17 overall), putting the Lady Gators' playoff aspirations on shaky ground.
It was the final regular-season home game for seniors Janet Potter, Tomeka Pride and Margo Sauter.
Despite Tuesday's poor showing, Ramfjord is happy with her team's effort this season.
"It's the best record Spring Creek's ever had," she said. "I'm proud of my girls for making that turn, because we were one-and-whatever last year."
Spring Creek 10 9 21 11 22 -- 73
N. Johnston 10 11 18 12 13 -- 64
SPRING CREEK (6-3, 10-13)
Cliff Wilson 2 2 11-15 21, Daniel Chewning 2 0 7-7 11, Maurice Langston 5 0 0-1 10, Dalress Bell 4 1 5-8 16, Josh Wright 4 0 1-4 9, David Harris 0 0 2-2 2, Desmund Raeford 2 0 0-1 4. TOTALS -- 19 3 26-38 73.
NORTH JOHNSTON (7-2, 9-7)
DeMario Hicks 1 0 0-0 2, Will Holloman 1 0 0-0 2, Brandon Sanders 8 1 6-10 25, Montess Neal 2 0 0-0 4, J.P. Wise 4 0 2-3 10, Willie Pearce 3 0 1-5 7, Willie Smith 5 0 2-2 12, Dutch Olliver 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 25 1 11-20 64.
3-point goals -- Spring Creek 3 (Wilson 2, Bell 1), North Johnston 1 (Sanders). Total Fouls -- North Johnston 24, Spring Creek 17. Turnovers -- North Johnston 14, Spring Creek 6. Fouled out -- W. Smith.
N. Johnston 6 8 10 10 -- 34
Spring Creek 6 0 9 4 -- 19
NORTH JOHNSTON (7-2, 13-5)
Amanda Sharpe 1 0 0-4 2, Caroline Hines 1 0 3-6 5, Stephanie Norris 1 0 0-0 2, Brandy Holland 4 0 3-5 11, Shanice Williams 2 0 6-10 10, Stefanie Jones 0 0 2-2 2, Leanne Birdsall 0 0 2-7 2. TOTALS -- 9 0 16-29 34.
SPRING CREEK (4-5, 5-17)
Tomeka Pride 1 0 0-0 2, Vanity Brooks 2 0 1-2 5, Brittany Billups 4 0 0-0 8, Tasha Whitfield 2 0 0-1 4. TOTALS -- 9 0 1-3 19.
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