Close contests were the norm in Tuesday’s fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. Saturday’s eight East finals will be split between Fayetteville State’s Capel Arena and East Carolina’s Minges Coliseum.
UPDATE: the regional assignments and schedules have been announced.
Fayetteville State will host the 3A boys at noon, followed by 1A girls at 2 p.m., 1A boys at 4 p.m. and 4A girls at 6 p.m.
ECU will host 2A girls at noon, 4A boys at 2 p.m., 3A girls at 4 p.m. and 2A boys at 6 p.m.
Boys: The storybook season for Garner ended two chapters too soon. In a tied game with 22 seconds left, Garner turned it over, which led to a fast break for South Central that forward Luke Davis finished off with a layup with about 7 seconds left. Garner had one final shot that hit the rim, and South Central won 69-67.
The undefeated-yet-fourth-seeded Falcons (27-0) defeated a 26-1 team for the second straight round. Thanks in part to 23 points from sophomore Day’ron Sharpe and 16 from Jahzeer Baker – many of which came at crucial times – coach Chris Cherry’s team will return to the state’s “final four” round for the second straight year.
“When you’re 26-0, it’s hard to explain to a bunch of 15- and 18-year-old kids why you’re going on the road in the fourth round,” Cherry said. “But once we got over that, we accepted the challenge.”
Until the last basket, Garner hadn’t trailed since it was 11-10 in the first quarter. The Trojans (26-2) led 31-25 at halftime on a buzzer-beating fast break dunk by Jaren Ellerbe (27 points), which was the first of his nine straight made baskets to close out the game. Kenyon Burt had 14 and Trayvon Ferrell had 10.
It was a heartbreaking ending for a team that was hoping to send its retiring coach out on top.
“I told (the team) my prayer for them was that they would become good, productive citizens,” said Garner coach Eddie Gray, who had announced this season would be his last. “And that’s what athletics is all about. It’s about preparing kids for the future.”
Gray has coached Garner since 1989.
On the other side of the bracket, Heritage invaded one of the area’s most storied sports venues and made a bit of history of its own. The No. 3 Huskies broke open a tight game down the stretch and went on to down No. 2 seed Broughton by a 69-63 margin at Holliday Gym.
With the triumph, Heritage (24-4) qualified for the East final for the first time since the school’s inception in 2010.
“It’s a tremendous feeling,” said Heritage fourth-year head coach Tilden Brill. “I’m trying to keep it bottled up right now. I was really proud of the way these guys came in and handled this tough environment.”
After falling behind by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, the Caps (26-3) were able draw closer and trailed by just a 43-42 total early in the fourth quarter.
But Heritage, which hasn’t lost yet in 2018, took charge for good with a 19-8 spurt. None of the Huskies’ buckets during the stretch came from the perimeter.
“We knew coming in that we had the advantage in the paint,” Brill said. “I think you began to see that more in the second half. We got a lot of second-chance opportunities. That was something we needed to take advantage of.”
Huskies’ 6-foot-7 senior Jayden Gardner, who stands five inches taller than any of Broughton’s starters, paced his club with 24 points, including eight in the decisive fourth period. Teammate Jarren McAllister had 18 points.
Guards Jalen Finch (18) and D.J. Thomas (17) combined for 35 points for the Caps, who saw a 10-game winning streak snapped with the home setback.
Girls: Unbeaten Southeast Raleigh cruised to its third straight 20-point-plus playoff victory as the Bulldogs defeated No. 4 seed Green Hope 77-53. Southeast (29-0) opened with a 10-0 run and led by double figures throughout except for a brief moment early in the second period. The Falcons’ Catherine Holbrook converted a steal for a layup to trim the deficit to 18-10.
Southeast’s Tamia Davis scored 19 points, Jamia Hazzell added 17 and Anya Poole 13. Nia Washington scored 22 for Green Hope (24-5), Sammie Seyer 17 and Holbrook 12.
“We preach to the girls to overlook no one,” Southeast coach Nicole Meyers said. “Everyone we play is a viable opponent.”
The game was stopped for about 25 minutes in the fourth quarter after Green Hope’s Kayla Tanner fell to the floor taking a charge. Falcons coach Mike Robinson said she hurt her neck but was OK. Tanner was taken from the court on a stretcher by Wake County EMS for precautionary treatment.
Southeast will face No. 3 Laney on Saturday. The Wilmington school knocked off No. 2 Heritage 51-45.
Tom Shanahan and Geoff Neville contributed.
Boys: Senior shooting guard Jaylen Alston rained a game-high 27 points into the net to lead No. 3 Eastern Guilford to a 62-37 win over No. 7 Southern Lee. Both teams played smothering defense in the first half, and scoring was at a premium, with the Wildcats taking a 19-13 lead.
Eastern Guilford got a burst of momentum when Alston returned in the third period, and Southern Lee couldn’t keep pace. Eastern Guilford senior point guard Montez Venable joined Alston in double digits with a slam dunk at 2:23 of the fourth period to end with 11 points. Cavaliers senior Nate Thompson scored 15 and had a slam dunk of his own.
The Wildcats, last year’s 3A runner-up, will face the reigning 2A state champs in No. 1 Northside. The Monarchs from Jacksonville are on a 58-game winning streak after a 57-55 win over No. 5 New Hanover.
Girls: No. 4 Hillside fell on the road to No. 1 Jacksonville 74-52. Jacksonville will play conference foe No. 10 Havelock, which won at No. 3 E.E. Smith 47-41.
Dan Way contributed.
Boys: No. 9 Greene Central took down No. 4 rival Farmville Central 67-54 and will be headed for a showdown with No. 2 Clinton, which defeated No. 3 Fairmont 80-56.
Girls: No. 1 Kinston defeated No. 4 Richlands 64-53 and will face No. 3 North Pitt, which edged No. 2 East Duplin 51-48.
Boys: Granville Central’s Cinderella run came up just short in a 60-59 loss at Pamlico County. The No. 7 Panthers’ putback at the horn was waved off, and No. 3 Pamlico advanced.
Awaiting the Hurricanes will be undefeated No. 1 Rocky Mount Prep, which blew by No. 5 Voyager Academy 75-62. Khalil Baker led the Jaguars (25-0) with 25 points, while Keyshawn Bryant had 24 and Trevor Batchelor had 14. Voyager (25-7) had four in double figures: Jordan Love with 17, Blake Buchanan 16, Michael Boadu 14 and Taleik Pratt 11.
Girls: It’ll be a Pamlico County doubleheader on Saturday, as the No. 1 Hurricanes of Bayboro defeated the No. 4 Hurricanes of Cape Hatteras 46-28. Pamlico will face No. 10 Weldon, which defeated conference foe No. 3 Northampton County 54-44.