02/04/09 — Saints hang on, stay tied with Kinston for top spot

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Saints hang on, stay tied with Kinston for top spot

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 4, 2009 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- The race for the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season title is heating up.

Southern Wayne remained a contender with a 52-51 victory over Wilson Beddingfield on Tuesday evening.

The Saints followed a common script in the win.

Early offense propelled the home team to a healthy lead. An offensive drought followed for Southern Wayne and allowed Beddingfield to take a halftime advantage. In the end, the Saints stormed back and claimed a hard-fought victory.

"It's nice to come back and get a conference win," said Southern Wayne head coach Russell Stephens. "Our guys were in the right place at the end of the game to make the plays we needed to make."

Both teams had chances to win in the final minute.

Beddingfield closed within one point when Terry Davis collected a rebound and scored on a putback. Southern Wayne guard Gary Woodard was fouled on the ensuing Saints' possession and missed the front end of the one and one.

The Bruins pulled down the rebound and raced into the front court, but an errant pass gave the ball back to the Saints. Dwight Smith was immediately fouled with 24 seconds to play.

The sure-handed guard watched as his first free throw attempt clanged off the rim and the Bruins collected another defensive board.

Beddingfield missed a short jumper with 15 seconds to go, but collected the offensive rebound and immediately called timeout. Head coach Jeremy Howard drew up a play off an inbounds pass, but never got to see the idea come to fruition thanks to some stingy Saints defense.

Woodard and Desmond Raiford trapped the ball as soon as it came in from the sidelines. The duo managed to knock the ball loose and a scramble ensued as the clock ran out.

"We had a designed set to use a couple of screens and hopefully get a good look," said Howard. "We got the ball in, but we were a little late coming off the screens."

On the night, the Bruins (9-12 overall, 3-4 ECC) were paced by Davis' 16-point effort. Jermal Artis added 10 points and Aaron Roundtree finished with nine markers.

Javaris McMillan and Khalil Artis paced the Saints' attack with 10 points respectively. Raiford added eight points and grabbed eight rebounds.

"The great thing about this team is that we always have someone ready to step up," said Stephens "Tonight Khalil played his best coming off the bench for 10 points, and Javaris came back strong from his eye injury."

The Saints' victory sets up a battle for sole possession of first place in the conference standings when the team travels to Kinston on Friday. Each team is 6-1 in league play.

"We know that that place is going to be packed and Coach (Wells) Gulledge's guys will be ready," said Stephens. "We will have to make our free throws down the stretch. We would hate to see something like that cost us a chance at a conference title."

Kinston won the previous meeting 64-57 in overtime.