02/27/08 — Murchison's steal aids comeback

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Murchison's steal aids comeback

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 27, 2008 2:34 PM

Down by eight points with 31/2 minutes to play, Goldsboro's basketball season seemed to be slipping away.

But, the Cougars rattled off 10 unanswered points to retake the lead and held on to defeat Northwest Halifax 76-73 in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A sectional playoffs on Tuesday evening.

Keovanta McDuffie's jumper ignited Goldsboro's late spurt and Tavon Murchison came up with three critical steals in the final minute and a half. Murchison's first steal got him to the free throw line where he sank one of two to put the Cougars (17-11) ahead for good at 70-69.

Murchison swiped the ball again on the Vikings' ensuing possession and turned it into a layup. He scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter and his final steal wrapped up Goldsboro's comeback.

"Coach told me to step it up on defense," Murchison said. "I got a couple of steals at the end. I'm a senior leader so I had to come through."

After struggling defensively all night the Cougars finally got stops when it mattered most.

Northwest Halifax took a 69-61 lead with 31/2 minutes to go and didn't score again until less than a minute remained. By that point Goldsboro had retaken the lead.

"I thought we finally showed some hearts and guts that we weren't going to lose," Cougars head coach Tod Morgan said. "We finally turned that light switch on. I'm glad they did."

The Vikings trailed by three early in the third quarter before Antonio Richardson's 3 tied the game at 44-44. Raymond Goddard connected from long range minutes later and Northwest led 54-46.

The Vikings (18-8) scored eight of the first 10 second-quarter points and took a 26-21 advantage. Murchison got hot, scoring 10 points in the second and Goldsboro took a 38-33 lead into halftime.

"Sometimes Tavon's a quiet leader and not so much a vocal leader," Morgan said. "I think he tries to make sure he gets everybody involved in the flow. With Aric (Sinclair) out, he has stepped up and taken a little more of a role in scoring. Defensively he was key with a couple of steals there."

Hakeem Clements scored 11 of his 19 points in the first quarter and Northwest Halifax led 19-18 after the first eight minutes.

McDuffie finished with 19 points, Demetrio Irby added nine and Doshamora Sims had eight.

The Cougars will travel to face undefeated and No. 1-ranked Graham (27-0) at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

"That's going to be a tall task," Morgan said. "They're certainly a measuring stick and we'll see where we are as a program. I think we're going to show up and play.

"We're definitely going to have to bring our A-game to have any chance."