South Stokes Sauras End Mustangs' Season
The feel-good story of the high school basketball season ended in a flurry of fouls and physical play Thursday night.
South Stokes ended North Moore's basketball season with a 59-54 win Thursday in Robbins.
The Mustangs, winless a season ago, finished 13-14 and were the last remaining high school basketball team from Moore County in the state playoffs.
The Sauras escaped a physical battle that left players on both sides battered and bruised, thanks to a 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter that gave the visitors the lead for good at 50-44.
North Moore led by as many as 10 in the first half, and held a 33-26 lead with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter, but the Sauras halved the lead on a free throw by Kelly Berry and a three-pointer at the buzzer by Carly McGee.
"That turned the momentum," North Moore head coach Sammy McNeill said. "Somebody was supposed to be on her and there was a communication breakdown."
The Sauras scored the first nine points of the third quarter to take a 39-33 lead with 2:58 left in the quarter.
During that stretch the Mustangs failed to cut into the lead, missing five straight foul shots. On the night, the Mustangs made three of 11 free throws in the second half and 16 of 29 for the game.
"What it came down to is we missed too many free throws and too many layups. I bet we had 15 shots from inside two feet of the basket that we missed tonight," McNeill said.
Two Shakora Brower layups and a three-pointer by Katelyn Sheffield cut the margin to 43-40 entering the fourth. Brower finished with 11 points before fouling out late in the final quarter.
A free throw by Lashai Thompson and a three-pointer by Brittany Brown gave the Mustangs a 44-43 lead a minute into the fourth quarter, setting up the Sauras' final surge.
The Mustangs would fall behind by as many as seven in the fourth, but scrapped back to within a basket, 55-53 on a Thompson layup with 1:11 left.
Thompson, who sat out much of the game in foul trouble, was very effective when she played, scoring a game-high 17 points.
Stephanie Mitchell answered the Thompson bucket by weaving her way through the Mustang defense, finding space in the lane and scoring a layup with 54 seconds to play.
The Mustangs cut the lead to three on a free throw by Sheffield, and then got possession following a Sauras turnover with 27 seconds remaining. Sheffield's game-tying three-point attempt was off target. Sheffield finished the game with nine points.
The Sauras grabbed the rebound and secured the win with two free throws with 17 seconds left.
McNeill said he was proud of his team, and expected them to be back next year.
"It was a great season. We are headed in the right direction," he said. "There is definitely more to come."
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2477 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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