FAYETTEVILLE — Traymond Willis-Shaw’s layup with 6:08 to play gave top-seed and unbeaten Westover its first advantage of the night and the Wolverines relied upon accuracy at the charity stripe …
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FAYETTEVILLE — Traymond Willis-Shaw’s layup with 6:08 to play gave top-seed and unbeaten Westover its first advantage of the night and the Wolverines relied upon accuracy at the charity stripe down the stretch to hold off Northwood and capture the 2020 NCHSAA Men’s 3A East Regional basketball championship with a 54-49 victory in front of 4,000 fans Saturday evening in Felton J. Capel Arena on the campus of Fayetteville State University.
The hard-earned triumph vaulted Westover (30-0) into next Saturday’s Men’s 3A state title game against West Regional champion Morganton Freedom (29-1) to be played in Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of N.C. State University, while the Chargers saw an outstanding season come to an end with a final record of 27-3.
The Wolverines’ Darius Jewell led all scorers with 18 points and teammate D’marco Dunn added 11 as Westover connected on 41 percent (18-of-44) of its attempts from the floor to help offset 28 turnovers.
“One of the big keys for us was the play of Darius Jewell,” said Wolverines coach George Stackhouse. “He’s only 5’9” but plays with a big guy’s mentality, especially on offense when he attacks the basket in the paint, and his scoring was instrumental in our comeback.”
Aaron Ross and Deuce Powell tossed in 14 points apiece to lead Northwood, which shot just 28 percent (15-of-53) from the field but held a 38-36 advantage in rebounding, with Jalen McAfee-Marion collecting a game-high 13 boards, including nine on the defensive end, while the Chargers committed 20 turnovers.
Stackhouse commented he had to give his team credit for overcoming a lot of adversity at the outset.
“We got down early and suffered early foul trouble but knew we had to fight our way through it, and we had a lot of different guys step up for us tonight,” Stackhouse said, while noting his team had a 15-0 advantage in bench points. “Fourteen turnovers in the first half was uncharacteristic for us, but Northwood is a good defensive team that will force you into making mistakes. Despite never having a lead through the first three quarters we didn’t lose focus of our mission, and we battled back in the second half by making defensive stops while hitting free throws down the stretch.
Westover had a 24-16 advantage in points scored in the paint, but the Chargers outscored the Wolverines 30-23 in points off turnovers.
The loss was a disappointing setback for Northwood, which controlled the game for three periods before experiencing a fourth-quarter collapse.
“I thought we executed our game plan by attacking the rim the first three quarters but we couldn’t finish in the last one,” explained Chargers’ coach Matt Brown. “Besides missing shots we started turning the ball over in the fourth quarter, while Westover made shots down the stretch and got defensive stops when they needed to, and that’s why they are where they are.”
The Chargers built their biggest lead of the contest by jumping out to a 10-0 advantage in the first four minutes of play following Powell’s three-pointer from the right wing and two free throws, McAfee-Marion’s put-back in the lane, plus a Ross fast break layup and foul shot.
But after the Wolverines recovered to trim the margin to 10-7 on a pair of Dunn free throws with 2:24 left in the opening stanza, Northwood closed out the frame with an 8-5 surge capped by Alex Snively’s trey from the right corner with one second showing on the clock to forge an 18-12 lead at the end of the initial period.
Following Powell’s jumper in the lane to begin the second quarter that put the Chargers’ advantage at eight, Westover went on a 10-2 run to pull even at 22-all on Jewell’s fast break layup with 1:35 remaining in the first half. Back-to-back Snively layups over the next minute then gave Northwood a four-point edge before Marvin Barnes’ put-back off the right baseline at the horn drew the Wolverines within 26-24 at the break.
After Westover tied the score at 28-all on Jewell’s layup with 6:22 to go in the third stanza, a pair of Ross hoops sandwiched around two Jack Thompson charity tosses pushed the Chargers’ lead to six and they maintained that spread (38-32) entering the final period.
Willis-Shaw’s go-ahead basket was just part of a 9-0 Wolverines’ run to start the fourth quarter that gave the winners a three-point advantage with exactly five minutes to play. Although Northwood managed to close the gap to 44-43 on two McAfee-Marion foul shots with 3:22 left, the Chargers were unable to regain the lead while Westover put the game out of reach by converting nine-of-15 free throws in the time remaining.
Brown finished his third season at Northwood and noted the improvements the Chargers have made during his time.
“In my three years at Northwood, our teams have gone from 9-16 to 19-10 to 27-3,” Brown said, “and it’s a real blessing to be part of a something like this.”