Patriots Win Back to Back SEC Titles
Pinecrest coach Mike Apple called Friday night’s come-from-behind 88-85 overtime victory over Hoke County one that will be savored for a long, long, time.
The Southeastern Conference title was on the line for both teams in the game played before a jam-packed house in Raeford. The defending champion Patriot boys rallied from nine points behind in the fourth quarter, tying it up on a basket by Phillip Wallace as regulation time expired.
The Patriots’ Faronte’ Drakeford scored 19 of his career-high 31 points in the second half. Drakeford, Wallace and Marshall Smith combined to sink 15 of their 20 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Pats, now 20-4 overall and 9-1 in league games, have earned a first seed for next week’s conference tournament and the 4A state playoffs that follow. The Bucks, 11-10 and 7-3, would have taken first with a win based on two head-to-head wins over the Patriots.
“It’s one of those things you shake your head about,” Apple said. “I really felt they (Bucks) were the better team for four quarters. Somehow or another, we found a way to tie the game which I thought was just incredible.”
No more than five points separated the teams in the first half. A three by Jayvione Parker gave the Bucks their biggest lead of the game at 61-52 with just under six minutes remaining in regulation. Smith and Adam Cummings answered from long range, but Tarique Thompson, a 6-foot-5 forward, who scored 27 points in the Hoke win at James Moore Gym, kept breaking the Patriots’ full-court pressure for layups or chances at the foul line.
“The full-court man wasn’t working for us tonight,” Apple said. “My assistant coaches really helped me recognize that. We backed it up and played more of a half-court game for the rest of the fourth quarter and overtime.”
Thompson fouled out at the 2:28 mark. Damion Pride tied it up for the Patriots seconds later with a put-back. But by the time Wallace went to the foul line with 15.2 seconds remaining, the Pats were behind 76-72 and both Drakeford and Pride had fouled out.
“I was frustrated at first,” Drakeford said of the disqualification after a powerful performance that also included 11 rebounds. “I felt like I had to be there for my team, so I was cheering them on the whole time.”
Wallace made both free throws. After the Bucks missed a pair at their end, the Pats had one chance left. Antonio Jones rushed up court and launched a three for the win. He missed, but the long rebound went back to Wallace at the top of the key. He had a clear path to the rim and laid it in, tying the score at 76-76 as time expired.
The Patriots took an 81-80 lead in overtime when Cummings went 1-for-2 at the line. The ball belonged to Wallace now. A moment later, he whipped a pass into Traivon Williams for a layup that made it 83-80. The smooth, cool guard then made another pair at the foul line for an 85-80 lead with 55 seconds remaining.
Wallace split a pair of freebies and it was 86-85 Patriots with 15 ticks on the clock when he went to the charity stripe one more time. He made both for the final points of the game. The Bucks got off two shots, one blocked by Williams, before Cummings grabbed the final rebound and gave the ball a great big protective hug.
“I thought there was more time left,” the sophomore guard who was in the game for most of the fourth quarter and overtime said, “but when that buzzer went off I got pretty excited.”
Also in double figures for the victors was Smith with 22 points, including three treys, and Wallace with 15. Tim Haggie led the Bucks with 27. Thompson finished with 19.
“We played real well in the overtime and we hit free throws,” Apple said. “Phillip did a masterful job in the overtime.”
More than 50 fouls were called and 74 free throws were taken in the game. A member of the Hoke staff reported that 1,300 tickets were sold and many people had to be turned away.
After a number of lean years in boys’ basketball, Hoke is a young team with a bright future.
“Hoke County is back,” Apple said. “You better believe they are back.”
Contact Charlie Bergmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pinecrest 88, Hoke 85 OT
Pinecrest 18 12 16 30 12 88
Hoke 20 14 19 23 9 85
Pinecrest - Wallace 3 9-12 15, Drakeford 11 9-13 31, Pride 3 0-0 6, M. Smith 6 7-9 22, Jones 1 0-0 2, McLaughlin 0 0-0 0, Pearson 1 1-2 3, Cummings 2 1-2 7, Williams 1 0-0 2. Totals 28 27-38 88. Hoke – Parker 3 3-7 11, Haggie 10 6-8 27, Black 4 3-4 11, Thompson 7 5-11 19, Brunson 3 0-0 7, Blue 1 0-0 2, McKoy 1 0-2 2, Freeman 1 4-4 6. Totals 30 21-36 85. Three-point goals: (P) 5 (Smith 3, Cummings 2); (H) 4 (Parker 2, Haggie, Brunso).
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