Ellis beats South for second place

Published 9:07 am Thursday, February 10, 2022

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By Brian Pitts
Enterprise Record

Behind sensational balance, the Ellis boys basketball team beat South Davie for the second time in eight days.
Ellis and South split in the regular season, and the rubber match was held at South in the conference tournament semifinals on Feb. 1. Third-seeded Ellis produced four double-figure scorers, hit clutch free throws in the fourth quarter and held on 56-52 over the No. 2 Tigers.
The Jaguars, who led 17-12, 29-20 and 43-38 at the end of the quarters, came at South in waves.
• Ethan Driver matched his season high with 18 points, nailed four 3-pointers, snatched eight rebounds and handed out six assists.
• Brady Vallance (13) delivered his fourth straight game with at least 13 points.
• Jake Runge (13) turned in 13-plus points for the fourth game in a row.
• And Connor Dixson recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. It was his second straight 12-rebound effort.
With the pressure on in the fourth, Ellis made 7 of 10 foul shots. Runge hit 3 of 4 and Driver 2 of 2. That offset the late scoring from South’s Noah Dulin, Josiah Spillman and Brayden Kistner.
Braxton Bowling chipped in two points for Ellis, while teammate Cade Jones pulled down eight rebounds.
“Cade played his best game of the year,” coach Ted Boger said. “He played great defense on Spillman and had several blocks.”
Did anyone expect the Jaguars to reach the championship game when they dropped three straight and three of four between Dec. 7-Jan. 20? They ironed out the kinks and won for the third time in four games, this win following a one-point overtime win over Wesleyan.
South’s scorers were Spillman (14), Dulin (11), AJ Imes (eight), Kistner (seven), Jayce Bentley (six) and Dallas Simms (six).
Notes: South finished 7-7. … South’s top five scorers were Spillman (15.1 average), Imes (10.2), Bentley (8.3), Dulin (7.8) and Simms (6.8). … Ellis (6-5) got over .500 for the first time since Dec. 14.
Wesleyan 59, ND 49 (OT)
North Davie’s Cinderella run ended in heartbreaking fashion, Wesleyan Christian Academy scoring a buzzer-beater to force overtime. In the extra session, the Wildcats had nothing left in their tank.
There was a three-way tie for third in the conference standings, and this was a play-in game for the fourth and final berth into the tournament. The game was held at No. 4 North on Jan. 31.
No. 5 Wesleyan held a 39-34 lead at the end of the third, but North roared to a 49-47 lead. That’s where it stood with six seconds remaining in regulation. Wesleyan had possession but had to go the length of the court.
“We went to a box-and-one with Edarius Oliver on their best shooter,” coach Trevor Gooch said.
The Trojan drove the length of the court, got double-teamed in the corner and threw up a 3. It was an air ball, but it fell right to a Trojan under the basket, and he scored at the buzzer.
North was spent, getting outscored 10-0 in OT.
North’s lead after 27 minutes, 54 seconds of action was spearheaded by Gavin Reese (20 points, five assists). Isaac Swisher had eight points and 12 rebounds. Oliver had six points. Draeton Nance and Jackson Sulecki had six each and Ian Patton two.
After starting 0-5, the Wildcats went on a euphoric ride to 5-5. That set up the rubber match with Wesleyan. Reese averaged 19.2 points per game. Swisher (9) and Sulecki (8) were the next scorers.
“This has been a fun and exciting season,” Gooch said. “The beginning of the season, when we lost both our point guards, Reese and Nance, we were really hurting for a playmaker. However, our guys kept working hard and improving. So when they came back for the second half of the season, we were ready.
“Gavin really loves the game and he makes everybody else better. He is one of the best point guards I have had the privilege of coaching. Jackson made a bunch of 3-point shots, and Isaac was a rebounding machine and great scorer in the paint. All three of those eighth graders will be dearly missed.”
NCLA 62, Ellis 40
In the championship game at top-seeded North Carolina Leadership Academy on Feb. 3, the Jaguars couldn’t keep up, which was understandable. The Falcons went 14-0, including 6-0 against Davie County.
“The kid from NCLA is a player,” Boger said of Caden Ryker, who poured in 27 points. “We just couldn’t stop him and he makes his teammates better.”
The Jaguars were not dead at halftime, 21-13, but they were all but done after the third (41-24). Their scoring came from Driver (15), Runge (11), Vallance (six), Dixson (four), Jones (two) and Bowling (two).
“We left our hot shooting on the bus, and we had foul trouble early with Driver and Vallance,” Boger said.
Ellis finished 6-6, with three of the losses to NCLA, which beat South Davie twice and North Davie once. This was Boger’s fifth and final season as coach.
“It was a great year,” he said. “I’m proud of the team. I would have loved to won that last game, but to finish second is nothing to hang your head about. We beat some good teams to get to the championship game.”
Ellis’ top three scoring averages belonged to Runge (12.7), Vallance (11.6) and Driver (11).