'Stangs Bounce Pats from Playoffs
The Pinecrest boys' worst shooting night of the season came at a bad time.
The result was a 56-40 loss at Middle Creek Thursday in the second round of the NCHSAA state 4-A boys' basketball playoffs.
A big part of the Patriot scoring problems were caused by 14 Mustang blocks and about the same number of altered shots. The visitors were six for 38 from the field (15.8 percent) through three quarters.
Coach Mike Apple's Patriots finished the season with a record of 19-8. In a battle between No.2 and No.1 (NCPreps.com poll), Middle Creek (27-2) defeated New Hanover (26-3) 69-61 on Friday night to become one of the East Sectional semifinalists.
Pinecrest attacked the basket aggressively right from the start of the game. Both Apple and Mustang coach Dave Kushner were surprised by the number of blocked shots that resulted.
"Our shot blocking has been good," Kushner said, "but not as good as it was tonight. I thought Brian Proulx was outstanding. He's got long arms and is really good at keeping the ball in play after he blocks the shot. We got a lot of the loose balls off the blocks."
A three by Josh Scales gave the Patriots their last lead of the game at 7-5. Proulx, a slender 6-foot-6 senior, who finished the game with 11 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks, was already in the heads of the Patriot shooters as his team broke away to a 30-15 halftime lead. The Patriots' 6-6 Phillip Moultrie committed his third foul midway through the second quarter, further tipping the balance toward the Mustangs.
"He was a surprise," Apple said of Proulx. "He blocked a lot of shots and really changed the way our post players played in the game. Going into the game, I felt we needed to have big games from our perimeter players."
When Jarrin Wooten made a pair of free throws to begin the second half, it reduced the Patriot deficit to 30-17. That's as close as they would get. They continued to challenge the Mustang rim with little success. A basket by Wooten at the 3:33 mark of the third period was only the Pats' second of the night in the paint.
"We thought they had a really good inside game," Kushner said, "so we tried to pack it in. They missed some shots early and that really helped develop what we hoped to do."
Middle Creek's lead topped out at 54-27 before Pinecrest finished game with a 13-2 run as the reserves of both squads shared in the action.
Nelson Kirksey led the winners with 16 points. Garrius Adams, who went over 1,000 points for his career, added 15. The Patriots were led by Scales with nine and Wooten with eight.
"I think our hearts were in the right place," Apple said, "but we just couldn't put the ball in the basket. Give Middle Creek all the credit in the world. They have a very good defensive team. They are quick and play very good help defense. Every shot we took tonight was contested.
"Even though the final score didn't indicate it, I felt we were on a level that we could compete with Middle Creek."
It was the final basketball appearance for Pinecrest seniors Moultrie, Josh Galberth, Carlton Rhone, Greg Tew, Dee McRae, Jon Smetana and the injured Christian Johnstone.
Pinecrest 9 6 8 17 -- 40
Middle Creek 15 15 14 12 -- 56
Pinecrest -- Scales 2 4-4 9, Galberth 0 0-0 0, Moultrie 2 2-4 6, Smith 0 0-0 0, Wooten 3 2-5 8, Allbrooks 1 4-4 6, Rhone 3 1-2 7, Cole 0 0-0 0, McRae 0 0-0 0, Tew 1 0-0 2, McCullough 0 0-0 0, Person 1 0-0 2, Kropp 0 0-0 0, Smetana 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 13 13-19 40. Middle Creek -- Adams 6 2-4 15, Kirksey 7 1-5 16, Kelley 1 0-0 2, Tankelwicz 0 3-4 3, Proulx 5 1-2 11, Connelly 1 0-0 2, Coston 0 0-0 0, Jones 2 1-2 5, McAllister 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 23 8-17 56.
Three-point goals: Pinecrest 1 (Scales); Middle Creek 2 (Adams, Kirksey).
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