SW boys advance to ECC finals
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 16, 2006 2:36 PM
DUDLEY -- For Southern Wayne's boys basketball team, beating Wilson Hunt in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference tournament semifinals meant more than getting a shot to add a tourney title to their regular-season crown.
With a first-round bye when the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs start next week, Saints' coach Mike Connelley simply wanted his team to get one more game under their belt on Friday to avoid a long lay-off between games.
Connelley's team accomplished that goal after a hard fought 67-60 victory over the Warriors on Wednesday on their home floor.
"We needed to win tonight, so we can play Friday. I wanted us to play hard and play with intensity, because I knew they would play with a sense of urgency," Connelley said. "It was important for us to win, because if not, we wouldn't play again until next Thursday."
The top-seeded Saints, ranked No. 2 in the latest ncpreps.com 3-A poll, move on to face second seed and fourth-ranked Kinston, who dropped Wilson Beddingfield in the semis, on Friday in Dudley. The two ECC rivals split their two regular season meetings, each winning on their home floor.
The Warriors concluded their season at 11-15 overall.
Much like its first two meetings against Hunt, Southern Wayne would need a full, four-quarter effort to take down the fourth-seeded Warriors.
Paced by the inside scoring and rebounding of Anthony Lewis, Kason Cheeks and Lavell Shipman, along with scrappy, zone defense, Hunt carried a 46-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
In a relatively low-scoring game, it was Southern Wayne's tenacity on the defensive end that controlled the final quarter.
Akeem Royal, who finished with a game-best 20 points, drained a jumper in the lane to give Southern Wayne a 48-46 advantage early in the fourth, and the home team would never trail again. The Warriors committed the first of six turnovers on their next possession and managed just one field goal and six points in six minutes and thirty seconds against an aggressive mixture of defenses by the senior-laden Saints.
Meanwhile, Southern Wayne had just four field goals in the fourth, but got to the line a whopping, 23 times in the fourth quarter and made 19 of its attempts. Royal, Antonio Davis and Austin Hood combined to do most of the Saints' work at the stripe.
Davis finished with a strong performance down low, scoring 17 points with 13 rebounds and three blocks with two of those rejections coming in a fourth quarter that saw Southern Wayne outscore Hunt, 24-14.
"Defensively, we really played well in the fourth quarter. In a lower scoring game, we buckled down defensively with our man-to-man and mixed in some traps," Connelley said.
Facing the Warriors' zone, which denied dribble penetration, the Saints did most of their scoring in the first half from the outside. Seven of Southern Wayne's 11 field goals in the first half were from behind the 3-point line as Royal and Delawn Armwood made three each from behind the arc.
Conversely, Hunt did most of its damage in the paint with hard-nosed baskets and rebounds from Lewis and Shipman.
Countering a 5-0 Warrior run, the Saints closed the half on a 10-4 spurt capped by a drive-and-score by Royal.
Armwood added 13 points for the Saints, while Austin Hood added eight points and four assists and Derek Garris chipped in six points and three assists.
Southern Wayne had an uncharacteristic, 16 turnovers with all but three coming in sluggish first and third quarters.
"We wanted to know where the shooters were, so we wanted to play a match-up zone and stay underneath them," Hunt coach Dwight Taylor said. "But, they got the lead and we had to go into some man. The momentum turned on us, and it was an uphill battle."
Lewis led Hunt with 16 points, while Justin Dunn added 12.
In the girls seminal, fourth-ranked Beddingfield, the only undefeated 3-A team in the state, jumped out to a 20-4 lead after the first quarter and never trailed in a 79-38 win over the Lady Saints.
Beddingfield will face No. 2 seed Charles B. Aycock in the championship game on Friday at 6 p.m. at Southern Wayne.
Jacobia Lucas scored 19 points to lead the Lady Bruins, while teammates October Harris and Jean Best added 17 and 13 points, respectively. In a balanced effort, nine of Beddingfield's 10 players scored before the end of the third quarter.
Ebony Darden dropped in 12 points to pace fourth-seeded Southern Wayne, which finished the season at 7-14 overall. Lynnesha Leonard contributed eight points to the Saints' effort.
Southern Wayne's downfall was similar to most opponents that face Beddingfield -- turnovers against intense pressure. The Saints committed 33 miscues, including 12 in the first quarter as the Lady Bruins sprinted out to an early lead.
Beddingfield extended its margin to 46-12 at halftime, before an improved effort in the third quarter by Southern Wayne. The Saints, who trimmed a 34-point deficit down to 24 at one point in the third, outscored Beddingfield 15-13 in the quarter, paced by six points from Darden.
"Their zone trap ... we know how to break it, we just didn't execute early on," Southern Wayne coach Sally Comb said. "We came out in the second half and decided to go all out."
With Bruins' coach Debra Pegram consistently mixing her lineups, Beddingfield re-increased their lead in the fourth on their way to advancing to the title game.
Christy Dixon, Southern Wayne's lone senior, played in her final basketball game for the Lady Saints.
Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference Tournament
(at Southern Wayne HS, Dudley)
Southern Wayne 4 8 15 8 -- 38
Beddingfield 20 26 13 20 -- 79
No. 4 SOUTHERN WAYNE (7-14)
Ebony Darden 4 0 4-6 12, Lynnesha Leonard 2 0 4-7 8, Shakoria Clark 2 0 1-1 5, Kiera Ingram 1 0 1-2 3, Carlotta Hagans 1 0 0-0 2, Lynn Grantham 1 0 0-0 2, Cassandra Jones 0 0 1-2 1, Christy Dixon 0 0 1-2 1, Clarice Sherard 0 0 1-2 1. TOTALS -- 11 0 13-22 38.
No. 1 WILSON BEDDINGFIELD (24-0)
Jacobia Lucas 9 0 1-3 19, October Harris 8 0 1-3 17, Jean Best 4 0 5-7 13, Shaniqua Clay 2 0 3-5 7, Kiara Simms 3 0 0-2 6, Monique Spry 1 1 1-1 6, LaToya Pope 1 0 3-4 5, Jessica Johnson 1 0 2-2 4, Jacquia Winstead 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 20 1 16-27 79.
3-point goals -- WB 1 (Spry). Turnovers -- SW 33, WB 19. Total fouls -- SW 21, WB 18. Fouled out -- none. Technical fouls -- none.
Wilson Hunt 11 14 21 14 -- 60
Southern Wayne 11 20 12 24 -- 67
No. 4 WILSON HUNT (11-15)
Anthony Lewis 7 0 2-2 16, Justin Dunn 3 2 0-0 12, Devrine Barnes 2 1 2-4 9, Lavell Shipman 3 0 0-0 6, Kason Cheeks 3 0 0-0 6, Bobby White 1 0 3-4 5, Marcus Sauls 2 0 0-0 4, Jamel Joyner 0 0 2-2 2. TOTALS -- 21 3 9-12 60.
No. 1 SOUTHERN WAYNE (21-2)
Akeem Royal 4 3 6-7 20, Antonio Davis 5 0 7-8 17, Delawn Armwood 1 3 2-4 13, Austin Hood 2 0 4-6 8, Derek Garris 0 2 0-0 6. TOTALS -- 12 8 19-26 67.
3-point goals -- WH 3 (Dunn 2, Barnes), SW 8 (Royal 3, Armwood 3, Garris 2). Turnovers -- WH 21, SW 16. Total fouls -- WH 21, SW 13. Fouled out -- Cheeks (WH), White (WH). Technical fouls -- none.
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