02/28/08 — Unbeaten South Central knocks out So. Wayne

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Unbeaten South Central knocks out So. Wayne

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 28, 2008 2:18 PM

WINTERVILLE -- Southern Wayne head coach Ricky Lofton stood on the sideline and watched in horror as South Central opened the third quarter on fire Wednesday evening.

Emily Perkins swished a 3-pointer.

Kelsey McCorkle drained a 3.

Jasmine Bryant connected on a 3.

McCorkle followed with an uncontested layup off a turnover.

Within an 84-second span, the Saints' two-point halftime lead had transformed into a nine-point deficit. Lofton never requested a timeout in hopes that his team could play through the spurt.

It didn't happen.

The No. 4-ranked Falcons prevailed 61-51 and returned to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A sectional No. 1 final for the second consecutive year. South Central (27-0 overall) entertains Eastern Wayne at 7 p.m. Friday with the winner advancing to the eastern regionals.

"We have overcome quarters like that before (this season)," said Lofton. "The third quarter hurt us ... turnovers and they hit some clutch baskets right there. I felt like we were still in the game, though."

Until the Saints hit a cold spell.

Turnovers, missed jumpers and the inability to box out on the defensive end allowed South Central to keep its lead. The Falcons led 45-34 after three quarters.

"We were motivated," said McCorkle, who led all scorers with 18 points. "We talked as a team in the locker room and said we wanted to play hard for our parents, fans and other supporters."

Southern Wayne (16-11) went without a field goal for three-plus minutes in the final period. By then, South Central owned a comfortable 56-35 advantage.

The Saints' Shakoria Clark sparked a game-ending, 16-5 run with two 3-pointers. The senior point guard tallied eight fourth-quarter points and finished with a team-high 16.

Lynnesha Leonard contributed 14 points, while Kayla Powell chipped in 11 points and 11 rebounds. Powell posted a double-double -- 10 points, 10 rebounds -- by intermission, but played sparingly in the second half due to foul trouble.

South Central led 12-8 after one quarter, but watched the Saints forge a 19-19 deadlock Clark's first 3-pointer of the contest. Powell provided six points and seven rebounds during the rally as Southern Wayne entered the locker room ahead 23-21.

"We had to get control of the ball," said McCorkle. "We were a little sluggish coming out and our shots weren't falling. We weren't really getting back on defense and didn't look like ourselves in the first half."

Six players provided at least one basket apiece as South Central broke the open the game in the third quarter. The Falcons, regional runners-up a year ago to SouthWest Edgecombe, triumphed for the 56th time in their last 57 outings.

Despite the loss, Lofton praised his team for playing hard.

"The girls played great, except for that third quarter," said Lofton. "You know, this team didn't win a conference game last season and won seven games (total). That's a great turnaround."