Dulin scores 40; but South boys fall

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Noah Dulin did everything in his power to make 17-0 happen, but Mooresville spoiled the South Davie boys basketball team’s bid for perfection in the championship game of the Tri-County Conference Tournament.

Top-seeded South got a 40-burger from the lefthanded eighth grade guard, but the Tigers were undone by a scorching hot shooting performance by the No. 2 Red Imps, who won an 83-74 shootout as South settled for 16-1.

South 81, SE 31

In the quarterfinals at Corriher-Lipe on Dec. 9, the Tigers crushed Southeast. Draeton Nance and Dulin had 23 and 15 points, respectively … by halftime, at which point the margin was 58-10.

Nance finished with 25 while hitting four 3-pointers. Dulin buried five triples on the way to 21.

The other South scorers: Tate Sechrest 8, Ty Cozart 8, Talon Andrade 4, William Martin 4, Wyatt Tucker 4, Cam Holland 4, Anderson Branham 3.

South 58, Burke 51

The earlier meetings against Selma Burke were the marquee matchups of the regular season. The Tigers survived those by eight and one. In the semifinals at Corriher-Lipe on Dec. 12, the dream of a perfect season lived on as South knocked off the Bears yet again.

But it wasn’t easy. South faced its most serious adversity to date at the end of the first quarter, when third-seeded Burke was ahead 21-12.

“We came out  with a bunch of nerves and just got off to a bad start. And they played well,” coach Germain Mayfield said. “That was the best I have seen them play all year.”

Nance and Talon Andrade keyed a South rally in the second, and it was tied at 26 at halftime. Andrade’s minutes went up when Owen Parker went down with an injury at the end of the regular season, and he took advantage.

“It’s kinda been someone different every game,” Mayfield said. “Ty Cozart and Talon gave great minutes in the last two games, so their minutes most definitely went up.”

Dulin and Martin carried the offensive load in the third, but South was still in a dogfight with seven minutes remaining. Its lead was 40-38.

“They had already started to believe they could win, so I knew we were in for a game,” Mayfield said.

South pulled away in the fourth, and the difference-makers at crunch time were the ones you would expect: Nance, Dulin and Martin. The trio was responsible for 16 of the 18 points.

“William might have been the best player on the floor most of the second half – until Drae and Noah took over,” Mayfield said.

South was down by one in the fourth when Dulin produced the best flurry of the season.

“Noah attacked and got an and-one,” Mayfield said. “He got a steal, pulled up for a 3 in transition and made it to put us up five with less than two to go. It was one of the biggest shots in the moment in South Davie history. It was just big-time.”

Dulin (20), Nance (17) and Martin (13) came up big as always. Holland and Andrade chipped in four each.

Moor 83, South 74

Coming into the championship game at Corriher-Lipe on Dec. 13, the Tigers had enjoyed an absurd level of domination. They had outscored 16 victims by an aggregate 1,009-523. They had ripped through Mooresville 64-33 and 56-35 in the regular season. They were one step from becoming just the second middle school boys team from Davie County – the middle schools were formed in 1993-94 – to achieve 17-0.

But the dream of joining the 2013-14 South squad went up in smoke against the No. 2 Red Imps. Mayfield knew Mooresville was dangerous because it had defeated Burke twice in the regular season.

It was utterly heartbreaking to watch Mooresville bomb in 12 3-pointers.

“They shot the (lights out),” Mayfield said. “We played tired. We missed 12 free throws (and went 9 of 21 for the game) and a bunch of shots we normally make. But they just outplayed us. It happens. They made 12 3s, which was the difference in the game.”

The game began in nightmare fashion. At the end of the first, Mooresville had a 22-8 lead as it buried five triples in the seven-minute stretch.

“Their first basket was a dead-in-the-corner 3 that somehow banked in,” Mayfield said. “I told Darius (Wilson) then: ‘If they are gonna make those kind of shots, we’re in for a long night.’”

South got back in the game in the second quarter because Dulin delivered a wrecking-crew game. He went for 40 points, including 15 in the second when the Tigers pulled within 34-30.

But this was a day when the Red Imps were clicking on all cylinders. They broke out to a 56-41 lead in the third, and not even Dulin’s 16-point fourth could stop the bleeding.

“We could have easily quit because we went down 16 in the first quarter, missed three out of four free throws and turned it over on the last two possessions (with a chance) to take the lead at the half,” Mayfield said.

Dulin did something immortal by scoring 40. It marked the most points by a Tiger in 32 years. Now there’s a tie for the program’s single-game record; Josh Ward had 40 in a 1991-92 game.

Nance had 17, Martin nine, Holland five and Andrade three. The Tigers did not become the fourth middle school boys team to run the table, but they could still stand tall and proud for going 16-1. There’s only been three other 16-win teams in South history – the 17-0 team from 2013-14 and 16-1 finishes in 2007-08 and 2009-10.

Nance (22.1 points per game) and Dulin (18.4) are the most dynamic duo in South annals. In fact, Nance broke the school record for scoring average. Drew Absher averaged 22.0 in 2004-05 and Cooper Wall averaged 21.4 in 2012-13 and 20.6 in 2013-14.

Notes: With 157 points in the final, this was the highest-scoring game in South’s history as a middle school. … Brent Wall and Mayfield coached the 17-0 team in 2013-14. Two more Davie boys teams have gone undefeated, although they played far fewer games. Tracey Arnold’s 2016-17 Ellis squad went 11-0, and Ted Boger’s 2017-18 crew went 9-0. … Nance, Dulin and Martin (10.5 ppg) accounted for 78 percent of South’s points.

Ellis 51, WR 45

In the first round at home on Dec. 7, No. 4 Ellis won a nailbiter over No. 5 West Rowan.

Despite only having five players, the Bulldogs were ahead by two at halftime and down by two at the end of the third. But Brandon Forrest, Zaheim Reese and Bowman Blakley made clutch baskets in the fourth to enable Ellis to advance.

After only managing 20 points across the previous three games, Forrest came through with 16. Reese broke out of a similar slump with 10. Brady Hall contributed a season-high eight. Mason Driver had seven, Westen Barefoot four, Blakley three and Cannon Smith three.

Ellis 56, Erwin 48

In the quarterfinals at China Grove on Dec. 9, the Jaguars knocked out the top seed.

Smith and Blakley helped Ellis build a 23-18 halftime lead. Smith was the main man in the third, when the Jags extended it to 38-30. Ellis ended up winning comfortably and pushing its winning streak to three.

Smith, who was averaging 7.4, picked a wonderful time for a season-high 18. Forrest had nine, Hall seven, Blakley six, Driver six, Reese six, Tay Settecasi two and Ayden Chilton two.

Moor 48, Ellis 47

In the semifinals at Corriher-Lipe on Dec. 11, the Jaguars fell just short against eventual champion Mooresville.

It was the rubber match between the teams. Ellis beat Mooresville 46-39 on Nov. 13, and Mooresville thumped Ellis 64-44 on Dec. 4.

But Ellis (10-7) regrouped from the 20-point loss and made a heck of a run in the tournament.

Burke 71, North 34

Selma Burke bounced No. 6 North Davie in the first round on Dec. 7. The host Bears sped to a 16-1 lead in the first quarter and kept adding to the margin.

North’s scorers were Edarius Oliver (16), Wyatt Harwood (nine), Nolan Allen (three), Carson Nichols (three) and Isaiah Hernandez (two).

Harwood averaged 13.3 a game, followed by Oliver (12.0) and Allen (6.7). Carter Cornett was fourth at 6.2, but he missed the last six games with a Nov. 16 injury. North lost all six of those games to finish 3-11.