After trailing Southern Durham most of the first half before rallying to forge a 32-all standoff at intermission, Northwood opened the third quarter with a barrage of three-pointers from Alex Snively and Jalen McAfee-Marion to seize the momentum and held off the Spartans the rest of the way to claim a 77-70 triumph in quarterfinal action of the NCHSAA 2020 Men’s 3A East basketball state playoffs in front of a standing-room-only crowd last Tuesday in Lewis Norwood Gymnasium.
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PITTSBORO — After trailing Southern Durham most of the first half before rallying to forge a 32-all standoff at intermission, Northwood opened the third quarter with a barrage of three-pointers from Alex Snively and Jalen McAfee-Marion to seize the momentum and held off the Spartans the rest of the way to claim a 77-70 triumph in quarterfinal action of the NCHSAA 2020 Men’s 3A East basketball state playoffs in front of a standing-room-only crowd last Tuesday in Lewis Norwood Gymnasium.
Winners of 10 straight, the third-seed Chargers improved to 27-2 for the season and punched their ticket into the Final Four for the first time since 2011, as they advanced to face top-seed and unbeaten Westover (29-0) next Saturday evening in the 3A East Regional Finals in Felton J. Capel Arena on the campus of Fayetteville State University, while 10th-seed Southern Durham had its nine-game win streak broken to close out the year at 22-6.
Northwood was led by Aaron Ross with 21 points, while McAfee-Marion and Deuce Powell contributed 20 points apiece and Snively finished with 14. The Chargers shot 52 percent (29-of-56) from the floor and held a 28-25 advantage on the boards while turning the ball over 10 times.
Ahmad Hamilton notched a game-high 22 points for the Spartans, Jashaun Hawkins chipped in 19 and Ricky Council IV added 15 as Southern Durham connected on 46 percent (25-of-54) of its field goal attempts while committing 14 turnovers.
“If you work hard, good things happen, and that’s the belief this team has had all year to advance themselves to the Regional championship game,” said Northwood coach Matt Brown. “Since we knew how good Southern Durham was after playing them twice in the regular season, we wanted to put pressure out on the wings and not give them open looks, while switching to a zone defense in the second quarter helped to slow them down.”
Spartans’ coach Greg Motley stated while his team did manage to put together a few late runs, there were times they had trouble putting the ball in the hole.
“We settled for three-point attempts too much, and that led to our scoring struggles,” remarked Motley. “I thought after they took the lead in the third quarter Northwood did a good job playing with patience on offense and looking for the high-percentage baskets, while we had a few missed assignments at the start of the second half when they made those three-pointers to take control.”
Following three ties in the first four minutes of play, Southern Durham grabbed a 12-9 advantage on Council’s trey from the left wing with 3:48 to go in the initial stanza and stretched its lead to as much as six points on three occasions before Powell’s lane jumper with 1:15 left in the period pulled the Chargers within 21-17 after one quarter.
After Powell’s turnaround bucket in the lane gave Northwood a 22-21 advantage with 5:34 remaining in the second frame, Hamilton tallied all but two of the Spartans’ points during an 11-6 burst that put Southern Durham ahead 32-28 with 50 seconds to go until halftime prior to Ross closing out the period with a jumper in the lane and a fast break layup at the horn to draw his team even at the break.
Following a Ross put-back in the paint 41 seconds into the third stanza that put the Chargers in front to stay, Snively’s three-pointer from the right wing and McAfee-Marion’s trey from the left side a minute later boosted Northwood’s advantage to eight before another Snively three-pointer from the left wing countered a pair of Council free throws and put the victors up 43-34 with 5:35 remaining in the period.
“The big three-pointers by Alex and Jalen at the start of the second half gave us a cushion to work with,” Brown said, “and we began running our sets better and taking high-percentage shots while running time off the clock before answering every run Southern Durham made down the stretch.”
After the Spartans trimmed the gap to 47-44 on Jaybron Harvey’s trey from the right side with 3:58 to go in the third frame, a pair of Powell layups and a Ross dunk on a lane put-back sparked an 8-4 quarter-ending burst that sent the Chargers into the final eight minutes on top 55-48.
Northwood went on to fashion its biggest lead of the night at 63-50 following a pair of Snively charity tosses with 4:54 left in the contest and Southern Durham could never draw closer than seven in the time remaining.