01/18/09 — Saints take defending 3-A champion to the limit

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Saints take defending 3-A champion to the limit

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on January 18, 2009 2:00 AM

DUDLEY -- Southern Wayne has proven it can play with any varsity basketball team its faced this season.

The Saints ran out of gas Friday evening.

Reigning N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A state champion Kinston held off a late rally and pulled out a thrilling, 64-57 overtime victory. The Vikings claimed their 21st consecutive decision against an Eastern Carolina Conference opponent.

"We knew coming in that this was going to a be a physical game," said Vikings head coach Wells Gulledge. "We were able to get the momentum back in overtime and make some big buckets."

Momentum didn't favor Kinston in the second half.

After building a 17-point advantage in the opening moments of the third quarter, the Viking bench watched as the Saints stormed back.

Southern Wayne head coach Russell Stephens implored his team to get on the glass and execute their vaunted zone defense. Desmond Raiford and Brandon Anderson responded with back-to-back second-chance baskets that ignited an 18-3 run.

"I told our guys that we had to battle for the rebounds," said Stephens. "I told them that we couldn't get beaten physically and we couldn't get out hustled."

Southern Wayne's hard work paid off with one minute to play in regulation. Gary Woodard sank a free throw and gave the Saints their first advantage of the second half at 49-48.

With 25 seconds to play, Viking guard Marquez Jones buried a deep 3 with a hand in his face, which ignited the visiting crowd. After a failed Saints' possession, Dory Hines upped the Viking advantage to three by making the second of two free throws.

Gulledge opted for a timeout after the made foul shot, which allowed Stephens to draw up a final play.

Justin Artis collected the ball on the Saints' side of half court, dribbled right, pulled up and buried a deep 3-pointer from the right wing which sent the crowd into a frenzy and forced Kinston to use its final timeout with just five seconds to play.

"We were going to run Justin off a screen," said Stephens. "But the way it turned out, he had the ball when we got across half court. He just pulled up and hit the big shot."

Kinston's last-second attempt fell short and overtime ensued.

Hines led the Vikings in the final four minutes and set the tone with two quick scores that pushed Kinston ahead 59-52. On the other end, the Saints could not get a shot to fall and the rebounds that were bouncing their way throughout the fourth quarter started landing in the visitors' grasp.

"To our guys credit, they didn't let the game get away from them," said Gulledge. "We switched up our defense, and as it turned out, that may have been the difference."

Ramsey Turner hit a 3 in the final minute to give the Saints momentary life, but a pair of Viking free throws sealed the hard-fought win.

Playing without go-to forward and University of North Carolina signee Reggie Bullock, who was out with a stress reaction in his right leg, the Vikings fell victim to momentary lapses that kept the Saints close.

Kinston (14-2 overall, 2-0 ECC) shot just 33 percent (12 of 26) from the free throw line and committed 17 turnovers. Jones paced the Vikings' offense with 13 points and five rebounds. Dallas Best finished with 10 points and nine boards.

Artis and Raiford scored 10 points apiece for the Saints, who dropped to 12-5 overall and 1-1 in the ECC. Rashadd Hill added nine points and seven rebounds. Anderson tallied eight points and eight boards before fouling out in the fourth quarter.