Correll's hustle play helps resuscitate lifeless Gators in second half
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 16, 2007 2:25 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Spring Creek's Daniel Correll almost looked like a defensive back during one key possession Thursday evening against Princeton.
The senior forward dove to intercept a pass near midcourt, fell onto the ball and managed to pass off to teammate Josh Wright. The Gators didn't convert the possession, but it spoke volumes for their second-half effort against Princeton.
Correll's gutsy play revived Spring Creek's heartbeat, which grew stronger as each second ticked off the clock. And veteran coach Sonny Kilpatrick, who has announced this is his last season on the sideline, knew the Gators wouldn't go down without a fight.
"When I saw Correll steal the ball and roll across the floor, I knew with that kind of hustle we could win," said Kilpatrick.
He was right.
Desmund Raiford's offensive putback with 1 minute remaining gave Spring Creek its first lead of the night. Correll and Wright added two free throws apiece, and sealed the Gators' come-from-behind 55-49 victory at Kornegay Arena. The second-seeded Gators (10-12 overall) meet top-seeded Ayden-Grifton for the Class 1-A Carolina Conference tournament title today.
Game time is 8 p.m.
Princeton (15-10 overall) could have enhanced its postseason seeding had it remained alive in tournament play. The Dawgs, instead, drew an opening-round playoff date Monday at Wallace-Rose Hill -- the reigning N.C. School Athletic Association 1-A state champion.
"I was scared to death coming into the ball game because my guys just didn't have the attitude they needed," said Kilpatrick. "Physically, we were ready, but mentally, we weren't ready."
Kilpatrick worst fears surfaced in the opening quarter.
The third-seeded Dawgs controlled the tempo and reeled off the first nine points of the game. Guard Ryan Daughtry pumped in six of his eight points during that span and Josh Barefoot buried a 3-pointer off Daniel Gerrell's assist.
Princeton led 16-6 after eight minutes of action and expanded its lead to 35-22 at halftime.
Kilpatrick admitted he delivered an unrepeatable halftime speech that probably peeled the paint and stripped the lacquer from the walls of the Mount Olive College men's basketball locker room. His message didn't fall on deaf ears, but the Gators took awhile -- more than 10 minutes -- to respond.
The Dawgs moved ahead by 15, but when their shots stopped dropping and the Gators increased their defensive intensity, the double-digit lead slowly dwindled to nothing.
Down 43-32 after three quarters, Correll provided the offensive spark with back-to-back 3-pointers outside. The long-range bombs forced Princeton to extend its 2-3 zone defense on the perimeter, and opened passing lanes for Spring Creek's guards.
"They let me keep shooting the ball even though I didn't hit anything the first three quarters," said a grinning Correll, who was one of four Gators to emerge in double figures with 12 points. "I got a couple to fall and we started building on that."
Spring Creek constructed a game-ending 23-6 run from that point. Correll came up with his football-like play during that stretch and Wright hit an unbelievable shot in the paint while falling to his back. The senior point guard got fouled on the play and added the free throw to pull the Gators within 47-45.
Wright got free for another basket on the baseline and Raiford converted the second of three consecutive offensive putbacks to forge a 49-49 tie. His final putback put the Gators ahead and helped propel them into the tournament championship.
Princeton, meanwhile, failed to score in the final 3:23 of the game and misfired on its final four offensive possessions. The Dawgs missed three shots within five feet of the basket and yielded a turnover, which resulted in a Spring Creek basket.
"We stepped up our game defensive-wise, and showed some heart with people hitting the floor and going after loose balls," said Correll. "You have to give them (Princeton) credit for frustrating us. But in the second half and fourth quarter, we just turned it on."
Princeton 20 15 8 6 -- 49
Spring Creek 7 15 10 23 -- 55
Andrew Cobb 0 0 0-0 0, Michael Radford 0 0 0-0 0, Will Gainey 0 0 0-0 0, Daniel Gerrell 3 1 2-2 11, Ryan Daughtry 4 0 7-8 15, Adam Nethercutt 3 1 2-2 11, Josh Holmes 2 0 1-1 5, Josh Barefoot 1 1 2-4 7. TOTALS -- 13 3 14-17 49.
SPRING CREEK (10-12)
Daniel Harris 1 0 1-2 3, Kevin Winn 1 0 0-0 2, Maurice Langston 0 0 0-0 0, Terrance Johnson 0 0 0-0 0, Josh Wright 6 0 0-0 12, David Harris 1 2 2-2 11, Dekevius Williams 1 0 1-2 3, Lucas Potter 0 0 0-0 0, Daniel Correll 2 2 2-3 12, Desmund Raiford 5 0 2-4 12. TOTALS -- 17 4 8-13 55.
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