02/20/11 — Triton girls exact payback in ECC tournament finals

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Triton girls exact payback in ECC tournament finals

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 20, 2011 1:51 AM

PIKEVILLE -- A little poetic justice.

One year ago, Triton won the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season girls' basketball championship and was upset in the tournament final by Charles B. Aycock.

One year later, the Hawks returned the favor.

Darian McNeill poured in a game-high 14 points in a defensive-filled, 33-30 victory over the top-seeded Golden Falcons in the ECC tournament championship Friday evening. Triton seized the No. 2 seed and bumped South Johnston to the No. 3 seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin Monday.

C.B. Aycock, the ECC regular-season champion, drew an opening-round home contest against West Carteret. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

"Triton is an excellent, very well-coached and well-disciplined," said Golden Falcons head coach Laura Romo. "They out-played us and they deserved to win. We made it close at the end, but we did not deserve to win that ballgame."

The Golden Falcons (17-6 overall) started out in their customary passive mode and quickly fell behind 7-0. Triton sat back in a 2-3 zone and gave Aycock plenty of looks at the basket, but Romo's team didn't attack from the outside.

The Hawks (16-9) led 18-10 at halftime and extended their advantage to 27-14 after three quarters. Meanwhile, the Golden Falcons had more turnovers (16) than points during that stretch.

"We would not step up and shoot," said Romo.

Aycock switched to aggressive mode and uncorked a 12-2 run that lasted five-plus minutes. Ivy Hartzell's short jumper off Courtnei Gilbert's assist closed the gap to 27-21 with 3:17 to go, and forced Triton to burn a short timeout.

Kendra Speight added a basket and Gilbert banked in a 3-pointer to make it 29-26. The teams traded scores and the Golden Falcons made it a one-possession game, 33-30, on another Hartzell jumper.

McNeill missed the front end of a one-and-one with 14.8, but Aycock turned over the ball when Hartzell (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Gilbert (six points) ran into each other going for the rebound. The Hawks exhausted the final 10 seconds and avenged two regular-season defeats.

Aycock tallied 16 fourth-quarter points -- more than double its output over the first three periods.

"We are tentative like we're scared to death, and we don't want to go out there and play hard," said Romo. "Then we think we can turn it on the last few minutes and come play. We've got to be able to play 32 minutes and we've gotten away with this for most of the season."