02/21/08 — Hunt holds off Southern Wayne

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Hunt holds off Southern Wayne

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 21, 2008 1:48 PM

DUDLEY -- Wilson Hunt jumped out to a 24-11 lead in the first eight minutes and never looked back en route to a 73-66 victory over Southern Wayne in the semifinal round of the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference tournament Wednesday.

Boasting a balanced attack, the Warriors raced out to a 21-point halftime advantage on the heels of a tenacious trap defense. Southern Wayne coach Russell Stevens used 12 different players in an attempt to break through the Hunt pressure, but no combination produced significant results.

"We knew that on their home court we were going to have to come out and start fast," Hunt coach Dwight Taylor said.

The third quarter saw the teams essentially trade baskets for the first five minutes before the Saints finally got some things working on the offensive end. Digging out of a 23-point hole, Southern Wayne embarked on a 6-0 run to end the period.

Down 15 with just five minutes to play, Saints guard James Jones found his stroke from beyond the arc and knocked down a pair of momentum-shifting 3's. The late rally quickly faded in the following minutes due in part to the physical demands of a constant full-court press, and part to some timely free-throw shooting by the visitors.

"We have shot it pretty well all year, and last time we were in this gym we shot uncharacteristically poorly from the line," Taylor said. "It was big for us tonight."

Trailing by 10 with just seconds remaining Dwight Smith knocked down a deep 3 at the buzzer, a formality in an already decided affair.

Bobby White and Jeremy Jeffers paced the balanced Warrior attack with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Jon Hart emerged the Saints' top scorer with 19 points, while Desmond Raiford added 15.

Hunt clinched the No. 2 seed for next week's state playoffs and travels to state-ranked Kinston on Friday. Southern Wayne dropped to the No. 3 seed for the postseason.

"We are going to go in there and give it everything we have," Taylor said. "They are a good team and we have to play at our best."

Regular-season runner-up Eastern Wayne pulled off a wild fourth-quarter comeback and nipped the Saints 67-64 in an ECC girls' semifinal contest.

Trailing by five points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Warrior coach Brent Holland made no bones about the offensive strategy.

"Brittany Billups was huge for us all game, both scoring and rebounding," Holland said.

The senior forward scored 37 of the team's 67 points on the night, but none turned out bigger than the final two. With her team ahead by one with just eight seconds to play, Billups stepped up and buried a pair of critical free throws.

With one final chance at a game tying basket the Saints never got the

ball into offensive position and the second ticked idly by.

"We knew what a good team Southern Wayne is. The girls play summer league against each other and two regular-season games, so we know that they are a legitimate top-three team in this conference. You have to give them a lot of credit for battling," the visibly excited Holland said after the game.

Eastern Wayne faces No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Wilson Beddingfield in the ECC title contest Friday at Kinston. Tip-off is 6 p.m.

"We still have a shot at our 20-win season," Holland said. "That was a goal of ours and we will have to play a great game to get there."