02/22/13 — Cougars, Eagles will meet in girls' tournament finale

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Cougars, Eagles will meet in girls' tournament finale

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 22, 2013 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Hurdles cleared.

Now fans get the matchup they expected.

Top-seeded Goldsboro High and second-seeded Rosewood square off today for the Carolina 1-A Conference girls' basketball tournament crown. Tip-off is 6:30 p.m. at Kornegay Arena on the Mount Olive College campus.

The Cougars secured their spot in the championship tilt with a 51-32 triumph over long-time nemesis Ayden-Grifton. The second-seeded Eagles withstood a late fourth-quarter rally and ousted archrival Princeton, 55-48.

"It's a big relief (to win)," third-year Goldsboro head coach LaTina Bullock said. "I told them coming into this game that it wouldn't be an easy one and I knew it would be like it was in the beginning. It was going to take more effort and commitment to them on defense to pull away as the game continued."

The Cougars and Chargers struggled to make shots and played ragged throughout the opening half. Goldsboro led 18-10 at intermission despite grabbing 21 rebounds and collecting eight steals.

Bullock urged her team to pick up its defensive intensity once it returned to the court. The request didn't fall on deaf ears.

Jolan Williams' beautiful post move against Ayden's Alexius Dixon sparked an early-quarter run that finally allowed Goldsboro (16-5 overall) to build a double-digit advantage.

Freshman Tyona Moses and senior Brandy Johnson combined for 11 points, either off turnovers or offensive putbacks, which pushed the Cougars ahead 35-20.

"At halftime, I told them that at the beginning of the third quarter we needed to come out and jump on them," Bullock said. "They needed to be more aggressive, not go through the motions and be in the spots where we're supposed to be (on defense).

"We got steals, moved our feet, got in passing lanes and that's what allowed us to come out on top today."

Moses poured in a game-high 24 points, while Johnson finished with 12. The Cougars picked the Chargers for 15 steals and pulled down 36 rebounds as a team.

Rosewood (16-6) held a seemingly comfortable 45-29 lead after three quarters, but Princeton's bulldog-like mentality and commitment on defense finally surfaced in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs converted turnovers and offensive putbacks to shave the 16-point deficit to 49-41 with 3:48 left in regulation. Desiree Baker answered with an offensive putback of her own to make it 51-41.

Savanna Massengill, who emerged the game's top scorer with 22 points, responded with an old-fashioned three-point play after getting fouled on a stickback. The teams traded held-ball possessions and turnovers during the next few seconds before Massengill put back her own miss with 29.5 seconds left.

Princeton trailed 51-46.

But the Eagles closed the door with four free throws and earned their third triumph over the Bulldogs this season. Alicia Burns pumped in 18 points, including a stellar 9 for 9 effort at the free throw line, for Rosewood. Mercer added 16 on 12 of 19 shooting from the charity stripe.

"The fight that Princeton had to get back in it was unreal and I was proud our girls because we fought through adversity when it seemed like we couldn't buy a bucket," RHS head coach Ryan Wells said. "Alicia stepped up when they took Lexi away and that was huge. Our team has matured and someone will always step up when things get rough."