Gators surge past Hurricanes
By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on February 20, 2007 2:15 PM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Spring Creek coach Sonny Kilpatrick admitted he was nervous.
Kilpatrick had watched his leading scorer, Josh Wright, go down to an ankle injury during the first quarter and was now hobbling around the court as his Gators trailed by 13 late in the third quarter. Thankfully, he knew there was one more period to play.
It was in the fourth quarter that Spring Creek and Wright played inspired basketball as the Gators would go on a late 21-0 run that enabled the home team to knock off the Pamlico County Hurricanes 80-70 on Monday night in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A Playoffs.
"I was nervous, but I knew if we could just wear them down a little bit we had a chance," Kilpatrick said. "Once we started getting a few shots to drop, then the momentum swung in our favor and we've been like that all year long. We just outscore everyone we play in the fourth quarter."
Wright and center Desmond Raiford were the big reason why the Gators maintained hope. Wright finished with 14 points while Raiford had a double-double with a game-high 32 points and a whopping 20 rebounds.
Despite coming down on a Hurricane player and tweaking his ankle during the first quarter, Wright was able to limp around for the rest of the game and help ignite the Gators' comeback.
"Josh can suck it up and play as tough as anyone I know," Kilpatrick said. "He's an athlete -- a good athlete."
Wright scored the last four points of the third quarter to help cut the Pamlico lead to 56-48 entering the fourth. He then watched his team fall behind by 11 with 5:34 to play.
"We had to fight to get back into it," said Wright.
All game long, the Hurricanes had been releasing two players down the court after every Gator shot, enabling them to convert plenty of transition baskets, many of which by guard Quan Jones who tallied a team-high 28 points.
"The only time that we couldn't stop them was on the fast break points where they beat us down the floor," Kilpatrick said. "Once we got that under control, we came back and played ball."
With the Spring Creek defense now stopping Pamlico's transition game, the Gator offense got going.
Wright drilled a short jumper, David Harris converted at the line and Raiford kept the run going with his strong inside performance.
A second-chance basket and a foul gave Raiford a three-point play that cut the Hurricane lead to 65-61. His ensuing hook shot brought the Gators to within two.
Wright -- who was practically playing on one leg -- somehow gained the strength to elevate for a short jumper to tie the game at 65 and put all the momentum in the Gators corner.
"That killed them," said Kilpatrick. "They got frustrated and started pressing. Momentum swung our way, and when it did, it swung hard."
With the Hurricanes unable to convert anything offensively, the Gators continued to be white hot.
Wright drew the defense and found Raiford and Lucas Potter for three straight easy baskets to put the Gators up 71-65 with 1:48 to play.
"I couldn't jump off of (my ankle) and get any lift on my shots so I had to do something else to contribute to the team," said Wright of his passing.
By the time Mike Cross scored for the Hurricanes with 46 seconds to play, the 11 point lead they had enjoyed just five minutes earlier had transformed into an eight point deficit.
Raiford put the icing on the cake as he pulled down rebound No. 20 and converted his third conventional three-point play of the night, giving the Gators their largest lead of the night at 78-67.
"Desmond is the best forward in our conference, bar none," said Kilpatrick. "He's phenomenal."
The victory means Spring Creek (11-13) and Kilpatrick, who has announced this will be his final season on the bench, will now play on Wednesday at East Columbus.
"The guys just played great and I'm excited ... excited about going wherever we have to now on Wednesday," he said.
N.C. High School
Pamlico Co. 21 22 13 14 -- 70
Spring Creek 20 15 13 32 -- 80
Quan Jones 11 2 0-0 28, Kurtis Haekney 4 0 3-5 11, Savon Roberson 4 0 0-0 8, Mike Cross 4 0 0-0 8, Antwan Tutt 1 1 1-3 6, Will Hollowell 1 0 1-2 3, Troy Brantley 1 0 0-0 2, Selah Hassell 1 0 0-0 2, Brandon Fisher 1 0-0 2, Rashad Sawyer 0 0 0-1 0. TOTALS -- 28 3 5-11 70.
SPRING CREEK (11-13)
Desmond Raiford 12 0 8-10 32, Josh Wright 7 0 0-0 14, Lucas Potter 4 0 2-2 10, David Harris 1 0 8-12 10, Kevin Winn 2 1 0-0 7, Daniel Correll 0 1 2-2 5, Dekevius Williams 1 0 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 27 2 20-26 80.
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