Pats Face Wakefield in Finals
If Pinecrest coach Mike Apple had relied on a script, the one for Monday's game against Trinity Christian would have been rolled up into a wad by midway through the first quarter.
Crusader guard Anthony Papillion stole the ball the first four times the Patriots moved into their forecourt in the Holiday in the Pines semifinal contest at James Moore Gym.
By the four-minute mark they trailed 10-2, showing little sign of being able to mount an attack. Papillion finished the half with 10 points and seven steals, and the Crusaders on top 35-28.
"I've done this long enough now," Apple said afterward, "to know you never script in your head how it's going to be. If you do, and it doesn't follow that script, you can take yourself as a coach out of the game.
"We just weren't ready to play the game from the get-go. In the second quarter, we're sitting there thinking, 'How are we going to stop this kid because he's doing whatever he wants to do with the ball.'"
Making adjustments along the way, and tiring the visitors with their 11-man rotation, the still-undefeated Patriots (11-0) rallied to grab a 74-64 victory. They will try to defend their 2007 tournament title tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Wakefield (8-4), a 56-42 semifinal winner over Richmond Senior.
Both teams are making their third appearance in the title game. The Wolverines beat Trinity Christian to win the tournament in 2006.
Trailing 10-2, Cedrick Threadgill came off the bench to steady the Patriot ship with four points in a row. The Pats took their first lead at 15-14 on a basket by Evan Cole in the opening minute of the second quarter.
"I'm taking it one possession at a time," Threadgill said of his mindset upon entering the game. "When we play better defense our offense opens up. There was a lot of motivation, being down, to get some steals and assists, and do the little things to get better."
It was still an up-hill battle for the Patriots after the Crusaders closed out the first half with a 7-0 run. But, early in the third period, they drew even at 36-36 on old-fashioned three-point plays by Cole and Josh Scales.
As the quarter wound down, Threadgill made two at the line, and then stole the ball and fed Tony Allbrooks for a three that put the Pats in front 53-50.
By now, guards Laquan McCullough and Scales were tightening their pressure on Papillion, limiting his penetration and play-making abilities.
"I think we got him out of his rhythm and he got tired," Apple said. "I think that had a big bearing on the rest of the ballgame."
The two teams traded points until the three-minute mark of the final period. Then a pair of free throws by Jarrin Wooten, and basket by Scales off a slick pass from Blake Smith, gave the Patriots their biggest lead of the game at 67-60. Allbrooks, another one of the sparks off the Patriot bench, made six free throws in a row down the stretch to nip any Crusader comeback hopes.
"In crunch-time, I need to knock them down, and that's what we all have to do," the senior guard said.
Scales led the Patriots in scoring with 16 points. Wooten added 12 to go with 11 rebounds. Threadgill was also in double figures with 11. The home team went 25 for 31 from the foul line.
Trinity Christian, now 13-4, was led by Papillion with 18. The Crusaders' 6-foot-9 center Demontre Harris fouled out after scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 boards.
Wakefield took command early against Richmond (4-8), building a 30-17 lead by halftime. Antonio Stabler led the winners with 16 points. Also in double figures were Keith Armstrong with 11 and Darius Leonard with 10. Scooter McDonald topped the Raiders with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
With front line players standing 6-8, 6-8 and 6-5, Wakefield will enjoy a significant size advantage against the Patriots.
"They're good athletically, not just tall," Apple said. "The biggest thing we have to do is get bodies between them and the rim. If we don't, it's going to be a real hard game to win."
The Patriots will also have to deal with one of the tournament standouts in Stabler, a 6-5 guard, who missed a triple-double in the tournament opener by two assists and scored 16 against Richmond.
"We heard a lot of people talking about Richmond and Pinecrest being in the final, so we had to show them what we've got," he said.
In the first of two afternoon consolation bracket games, Overhills defeated Durham Academy 66-44 behind 18 points by Miguel Harrison. Then Holly Springs outscored West Montgomery 28-3 in the third quarter on the way to a 79-49 victory. Marquedis Pratt scored a game-high 21 points for West Montgomery. Terrence Walker led the winners with 19.
In Tuesday's consolation contests, Durham Academy and West Montgomery meet at 2 p.m., it's Holly Springs and Overhills at 3:30 p.m., and Richmond takes on Trinity Christian for third place at 6 p.m.
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