Pats Repeat As SEC Tourney Champs
A high school basketball team doesn’t win consecutive conference regular season and conference tournament titles without having a pretty darn good point guard.
Phillip Wallace, the Pinecrest starter at the position the last two years, helped his team turn away an upset-minded Richmond Senior squad 71-62 for the Southeastern Conference tournament championship at James Moore Gym Friday night.
Wallace and fellow senior Faronte’ Drakeford each scored 16 points as the Patriots survived a cold-shooting first half and an intensity level by the Raiders that was difficult to match. The Patriots, 22-4 overall, are a combined 23-1 in league games over the past two seasons.
Coach Mike Apple’s squad entertains West Johnston (10-12), a fifth seed from the Greater Neuse River Conference, at 7 p.m. on Monday in a first round 4A state playoff first game.
“It feels great because not a lot of people can say that,” Wallace said of the back-to-backs. “To go deep into the playoffs would be even better.”
While the Patriots were making only eight of their first 30 shots from the field, missed layups and turnovers prevented the Raiders from taking full advantage. As it was, the visitors led 25-17 late in the second quarter when Apple called a time out.
“He was telling us we were shooting too many threes and to start trying to get to the basket,” Wallace said. “I didn’t see anybody else doing it so I thought if I tried it, everybody would follow me and do it too.”
A three by Traivon Williams, a jumper from the side by Antonio Jones and two penetrations into the paint for baskets by Wallace added up to a 9-0 run and a 26-25 Patriot halftime lead.
“Phillip has that extra gear that’s required to do that kind of thing,” Apple said of his floor leader’s forays down the lane. “When he does that, he’s as good any point guard around here.”
Two drives to the hoop by Jones at the start of the third quarter, set off another 9-0 run, making it an 18-0 turnaround. Just before the end of a period that produced 27 points, a put-back by Frankie Painter gave the Patriots their biggest lead of the night at 53-37.
“I’ll tell you,” Apple said, “the first five minutes of the third quarter was pretty Pinecrest basketball right there.”
Shades of their comeback win from 20 points behind against Hoke County in Wednesday’s semifinal game, the Raider response was a 20-7 rally that cut the margin to 60-57 with 3:43 remaining in the game. Drakeford fed Williams for two to stop the bleeding and then made a pair at the foul line, making it 64-57.
Damion Pride turned a steal into a basket before the Patriots completed their scoring from the foul line. Wallace was 6-for-8 and the Pats were a solid 12-for-16 overall from the charity stripe in the quarter.
Marshall Smith had 12 points for the winners, including three treys. Jones and Williams added nine points each. The Raiders, 17-8, were led by Will Freeman with 18 points and Jordan Richardson with 15.
Apple describes West Johnston as a half-court oriented team with some good size in the front court and quick guards. The Patriots will look to speed up the tempo.
“I’m sure they’ll want a 50-point game and we’ll want a 70-point game if we can get it,” the coach said.
Second and third round games follow for the winners on Wednesday and Friday.
Contact Charlie Bergmann at email@example.com.
Pinecrest 71, Richmond 62
Richmond 11 14 13 24 62
Pinecrest 9 17 27 18 71
Richmond – Glenn 2 0-0 4, D. Little 0 0-2 0, Breeden 5 0-0 12, T. Little 1 0-0 2, Freeman 8 2-6 18, Ellerbe 3 3-4 9, Richardson 7 1-3 15, Clarke 1 0-1 2, Calhoun 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 6-15 62. Pinecrest – Wallace 4 8-12 16, Drakeford 7 2-4 16, Pride 1 2-2 4, M. Smith 4 1-2 12, Jones 4 1-2 9, Cummings 0 0-0 0, McLaughlin 1 0-0 2, Williams 3 2-2 9, Pearson 0 1-2 1, Painter 1 0-0 2, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Scales 0 0-0 0, J. Smith 0 0-0 0, Tolson 0 0-0 0, Barnes 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 17-26 71. Three-point goals: (R) 2 (Breeden 2); (P) 4 (M. Smith 3, Williams).
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