South rolls in semi-finals against Ellis

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The South Davie-Ellis showdown came in the conference tournament semifinals instead of the championship game, but it still felt like a heavyweight prize fight.

Ellis took the first meeting 66-60 while erasing a double-digit deficit. South got revenge in the rematch, with Noah Dulin forcing overtime with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the Tigers to 64-56 victory.

Everyone was expecting another dogfight when the rubber match was held at South on Feb. 2, but the red-hot Tigers ended the suspense early. They didn’t just win, they dominated 67-43 to advance to the final.

SD 50, NCLA 20

In the first round on Jan. 31, Cameron Knox drained 6 of 7 field goals as the Tigers blasted North Carolina Leadership Academy by a predictable margin.

Knox paced South with 15 points. Dulin and Draeton Nance had 11 each. Jayce Bentley had six, William Martin four, Ean Click two and Luke Foster one as South achieved its longest winning streak (12) in nine years. (The 2013-14 team went 17-0.)

It went according to form for the second-seeded Tigers, who thrashed No. 7 NCLA 55-12 in the regular season.

Ellis 68, Summit 57

After blasting the Eagles 75-25 and 54-21 in the regular season, it was teed up for No. 3 Ellis to have a cozy win in the first round at home on Jan. 31, right?

Nope. Yes, the Jaguars were immensely more talented than No. 6 Summit … at all but one position. One Eagle had an incredible game and kept his team from getting blown out. That kid had 31 points and eight 3-pointers.

“He would sit there in the corner,” coach Daniel York said. “It didn’t matter if a hand was literally in his face or not. He could not miss the entire night.”

Summit’s one-man gang was trumped by Braxton Bowling’s 32-point gem. He had 11 of Ellis’ 18 first-quarter points, he nailed four 3s and he came within three points of his own school record, having put up 35 earlier in the season. The performance left Bowling’s average at 17.8, second in the county to Dulin’s 19.2.

In the third, Bowling accounted for 12 of 20 points as Ellis extended a 34-26 halftime lead to 54-37.

“Braxton knocked down shots and he was able to get what he wanted at the rim,” York said. “He’s just a tough kid to stop once he’s got a full head of steam going into the paint. He’s just a strong kid. There’s not much you can do.”

Brandon Forrest had 10 points, Ben Reid six, Max Cornatzer five, Aiden Horton four, Cannon Smith three, Zaheim Reese three, Weston Barefoot two, Colin Harrison two and J’Sierre Arnold one.

SD 67, Ellis 43

In the semifinals at South, the first quarter was a continuation of the first two meetings. South had a 20-16 lead behind a strong start from Knox (11 points). Ellis was battling hard behind Horton, Bowling and Forrest, who combined for 14.

But the Tigers took command in the second quarter and never looked back on the way to a massive W in front of a standing-room-only crowd. They surged to a 33-24 halftime lead. They pushed the margin to 48-34 in the third, and they poured it on in the fourth.

Nance was the star with 20 points and four triples. Knox had a day to remember, too, with 15 points.

“If I had Jayce at 100 percent and not at 60 percent, we would score 90 points a game – especially the way Cam has started to play,” South coach Germain Mayfield said. “He’s not my best player, but he might be my most important player. He does all the little things, and now he is starting to make shots, which is just icing on the cake.”

South rocked Ellis with four double-figure scorers, including Dulin (14) and Jayden Warren (12). Bentley and Foster had four and two, respectively.

Meanwhile, South’s zone foiled Bowling, who was held to nine points after scoring 19 and 22 in the regular-season meetings.

“We played 2-3 zone and just kept him out of the lane and out of transition,” Mayfield said.

Reid led Ellis with 14. Horton had eight, Forrest six, Arnold four and Harrison two.

While South rolled to 13-2, Ellis finished 12-4. Although their season ended on a sour note, the Jaguars posted the second-most wins in their 16-year history and the most in eight years.

Not only did Bowling set the single-game scoring record in a November game against North Davie, he established a new Ellis standard for season average at 17.2. The top two marks before this were Cade Carney’s 15.4 in 2011-12 and Heath Slabach’s 15.2 in 2012-13. Bowling performed a 13-point jump from his seventh-grade average.

Reid was second at 10.7, followed by Forrest’s 9.2 and Horton’s 7.2. Forrest will be the top returning scorer come 2023-24.

“This season was a whirlwind,” York said at the close of his first year as head coach. “I loved every second of it and these guys are amazing. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us. I can’t wait to go and watch these eighth-grade guys (Bowling, Reid, Horton, Dashel DesNoyers, Cornatzer, Arnold and Harrison) at the high school.”

ND 54, WCA 36

North Davie and Wesleyan Christian Academy split in the regular season, with North winning 52-45 and Wesleyan triumphing 53-49, but the No. 4 Wildcats dominated the first-round meeting at North on Feb. 1.

The No. 5 Trojans found themselves behind 30-15 at halftime. They climbed within nine in the third, but Edarius Oliver and North sprinted to the finish line to win going away.

Oliver (20) posted his fourth 20-point game. Ty Greene had 13, Wyatt Harwood 10, Blake French seven and Will Carter four. French pulled down 10 rebounds and Carter made five steals.

“It was most definitely our best game of the year,” coach Trevor Gooch said. “Our kids were locked in for four quarters.”

Phoenix 61, ND 26

The euphoria was fleeting for the Wildcats, who faced a 27-0 deficit in the semifinals at top-seeded Phoenix Academy on Feb. 2.

Oliver led with 13 points. Greene had five, Nolan Allen two, Chad Hardin two, Mack Ridenhour two, Carter one and French one.

The margin wasn’t a surprise considering Phoenix blew past North 54-29 in the regular season.

“We will miss our eighth graders,” Gooch said of Carter, French, Greene, Hardin, Landon Hayes and M. Ridenhour.

Notes: North, which finished 8-7, will return two starters next year: Oliver and Harwood. … Oliver averaged 15.6 points. For guys who appeared in at least half the games, it’s the highest average by a Wildcat in four years. Iverson King went for 20.3 in 2018-19. … French (6.7) and Greene (6.4) were the Nos. 2-3 scorers.