Gators, Eagles ousted in boys Carolina 1-A semifinals
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 17, 2006 2:26 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- An all-Wayne County championship in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference boys tournament looked well within reach at different stages of No. 5 Rosewood's and No. 3 Spring Creek's respective semifinal games on Thursday at Kornegay Arena.
But, much like the regular season, top-seed Ayden-Grifton and second-seed North Johnston found ways to emerge past their opposition.
In the first semifinal, the Eagles led 26-18 at halftime and remained up by six after three quarters, before the Chargers controlled the last eight minutes and claimed a 60-51 victory.
"We got out really well. We were aggressive," Rosewood coach Daniel Mitchell said. "Offensively we executed for about three quarters, then we had a couple of possessions where we weren't patient, and it helped them go on a run."
The Gators fell behind early and trailed most of the way, then cut into a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to get within five heading into the final minute of the fourth. But, Spring Creek (12-14) missed a handful of late 3-point attempts, while the Panthers posted some clutch late baskets and free throws on their way to a 59-51 win.
"Our defense kept us in the ball game, because our offense wasn't there," Spring Creek coach Sonny Kilpatrick said. "We didn't work at it (going to the basket) and didn't work for it. We started too late."
Ayden-Grifton (13-8) and North Johnston (11-7) will meet in the tournament championship game at 8 p.m. tonight at Mount Olive. The Chargers and Panthers split in their two regular-season meetings.
Rosewood's Kyle Bunn, one of five seniors, finished with a team-high 15 points in his final basketball game, while Clarence Toran chipped in 13 points. The duo combined for 13 of the Eagles' 17 points in a second quarter that saw their team lead by as much as 22-12 after a 13-1 run.
Rosewood's zone defense seem to frustrate the Chargers through most of the first half and into the third quarter as Ayden-Grifton often settled for perimeter shots, while Bunn, Holt Rains and Dennis Jones did a solid job on the defensive glass -- often limiting the Chargers to one shot.
At the four-minute mark of the third quarter, Ayden-Grifton had just seven field goals and still trailed by double digits.
"We came out flat, and I thought they did a real good job. They frustrated us early with the zone, and they kept the pace of the game down," Ayden-Grifton coach Bob Murphrey said. "Rosewood was ready to play more than we were."
Then, the Chargers' James Greene caught fire.
Paced by two, 3-pointers and four total field goals by Greene, Ayden-Grifton closed the deficit to 33-31 with an 11-3 spurt. Still, Rosewood's Stephen McIntyre answered with a three to help boost the Eagles (6-20) back ahead by six before the end of the third.
Ayden-Grifton took their first lead at 42-41 on a short jumper by Jaquan Nobles as the lead changed hands five times in the early stages of the final quarter. Then, Rosewood managed just one field goal in four-plus minutes as the Chargers turned turnovers into easy baskets and outscored the Eagles, 20-6 in the first five minutes of the fourth to pull away late.
"I think once they made their run and closed the gap, our guys may have felt the pressure," Mitchell said. "Ayden picked up their intensity and played physical on-the-ball defense. It disrupted our offensive flow and allowed them to get some transition baskets.
Bunn, Zach Hardison, Brantley Ellis, Trey Kriger and Matt Spriggs played in their final basketball games for the Purple and Gold.
In another slow-paced contest, the Gators and Panthers combined for just 13 field goals in the first half. North Johnston took a 22-15 margin into halftime against a Spring Creek team that never managed to get on track from the outside.
The same trend continued into the third quarter as the Gators, much like Ayden-Grifton in the first semifinal, had only seven field goals with five minutes remaining in the third. Following Spring Creek's fifth turnover of the third, North Johnston's Willie Smith gave the Panthers their biggest lead at 34-19 late in the quarter.
Before fouling out in the fourth, the 6-foot-7 Smith finished with a game-high 22 points, including a flawless, 12-of-12 effort from the free-throw line.
Smith fouled out with 3:30 left in the fourth, which seemed to energize Spring Creek -- still trailing by 11. Quickly, Dalreese Bell, who had a team-best 19 points, drained his second-of-three, 3-pointers in the fourth as the margin closed to eight at 50-42 with three minutes left.
Two minutes later, Cliff Wilson hit two-of-two at the line, then Bell made his final three to cut it to 56-51 with :49 left. Spring Creek attempted to extend the game by putting North Johnston on the line, but Willie Pearce and Brandon Sanders hit clutch shots at the stripe to put the game out of reach.
"I was hoping we could win tonight and tomorrow night, and I still think we could have," Kilpatrick said. "We lost to the No. 2 seed, and that's nothing to be ashamed of."
Wilson added 10 points for the Gators, making 7-of-8 at the line, while Desmund Raeford and Daniel Chewning chipped in seven points each.
Despite the loss, Spring Creek continues its season on Tuesday when the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs begin. The Gators will travel to the Super Six Conference's No. 2 seed, which is likely James Kenan, according to Kilpatrick.
Class 1-A Carolina Conference Tournament
(at Mount Olive College)
Semifinal No. 1
Rosewood 9 17 15 10 -- 51
Ayden-Grifton 6 12 17 25 -- 60
No. 5 ROSEWOOD (6-20)
Kyle Bunn 5 1 2-2 15, Clarence Toran 4 1 2-4 13, Stephen McIntyre 2 1 2-3 9, Holt Rains 3 0 2-2 8, Dennis Jones 2 0 0-0 4, Zach Hardison 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 17 3 8-11 51.
No. 1 AYDEN-GRIFTON (13-8)
James Greene 3 5 0-1 21, Tanner Carnes 5 0 3-7 13, Leon Maye 2 0 5-5 9, Kevin Milton 3 0 3-3 9, Jaquan Nobles 1 0 2-2 4, Stefon McGhee 1 0 1-1 3, Chris Dixon 0 0 1-2 1. TOTALS -- 15 5 15-21 60.
3-point goals -- RHS 3 (Bunn, Toran, McIntyre), AG 5 (Greene 5). Turnovers -- RHS 12, AG 12. Total fouls -- RHS 17, AG 13. Fouled out -- none. Technical fouls -- none.
Semifinal No. 2
Spring Creek 7 8 12 24 -- 51
North Johnston 14 8 18 19 -- 59
No. 3 SPRING CREEK (12-14)
Dalreese Bell 2 5 0-1 19, Cliff Wilson 0 1 7-8 10, Desmund Raeford 2 0 3-5 7, Daniel Chewning 1 1 2-2 7, Maurice Langston 3 0 0-0 6, Josh Wright 1 0 0-2 2. TOTALS -- 9 7 12-18 51.
No. 2 NORTH JOHNSTON (11-7)
Willie Smith 5 0 12-12 22, Willie Pearce 5 0 4-4 14, Brandon Sanders 5 0 1-3 11, J.P. Wise 3 0 2-6 8, Dutch Olliver 1 0 0-0 2, No. 25 1 0 0-0 2, Will Holloman 0 0 0-4 0. TOTALS -- 18 0 19-29 59.
3-point goals -- SC 7 (Bell 5, Wilson, Chewning). Turnovers -- SC 10, NJ 13. Total fouls -- SC 21, NJ 19. Fouled out -- Olliver (NJ), Smith (NJ), Raeford (SC). Technical fouls -- Holloman (NJ), Bell (SC).
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