Ellis boys fall short on OT title game

Published 11:26 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The last week of the boys middle school basketball season featured two thrillers. North Davie won in overtime in the Tri-County Conference Tournament quarterfinals. Ellis came within a whisker of winning the tournament, losing in overtime in the championship game.

Ellis 51, CG 13

The Jaguars smashed China Grove in the quarterfinals on Feb. 24. The bludgeoning was led by Hunter Hough, who torched the Red Devils with five 3-pointers in the first quarter and a sixth triple early in the second.

The tournament was a true breakout for Hough, who averaged 3.6 points through the first 11 games. Then he scored 34 points with 10 triples over two games, including 20 points against China Grove.

Josiah Warren had a season-high 10. Cam James had seven. Bentley Carter and Ryan Richardson had three each. Peyton Fishel, Will Hileman, Mason Walker and Joseph Burchette all had two.

“Hunter hit six straight 3s to start the game without a miss,” coach Mike Dinkins said. “Amazing. The sixth one was on the first possession in the second quarter. I’ve never had a kid shoot it like that. We got so far ahead, I ended up taking him out of the game. He only played the first two possessions of the third quarter and he did not play at all in the fourth. He’s one of the hardest-working kids we have in the gym. He’s always one of the last ones to leave.”

North 44, Erwin 38 (OT)

After dropping three of four at the end of the regular season, North Davie righted the ship and earned two tournament wins, including an overtime victory in the quarterfinals on Feb. 24.

North trailed 21-20 at halftime. Wade Ridenhour and Levi Morales had seven each in the half and “kept us in the game,” coach Trevor Gooch said.

The Wildcats were down by six with 3:38 remaining in regulation, but they were up to the challenge. Nathan Smith scored. Ridenhour banged a 3. Tannyr Carrier banked in a 3 with :33 left and the fourth ended 36-36.

Carrier played hero again in overtime. Jordan scored four of North’s eight in the extra session, and Morales added two as North avenged a 43-41 loss on Jan. 16.

Ridenhour and Morales finished with 12 each. Carrier had 10, Peyton Jordan six and Smith four.

“Tannyr made another magical shot (in OT) that kissed the top of the backboard for a 38-36 lead,” Gooch said. “I’m really proud of our guys for coming from behind for the entire game but prevailing in overtime.”

Ellis 49, North 33

The final doesn’t reflect it, but this was a real battle for three quarters. The third ended with Ellis ahead 32-28, but the Jaguars exploded for 17 points in the final six minutes and won going away in the semifinals on Feb. 26.

Hough led with 13 as Ellis beat North (7-10) for the third time. Fishel had 12 points and 10 rebounds. James had six points and 14 rebounds. Warren had six points and 10 rebounds. Chance McLean had four points. Jordan Crowley and Graham Wood had three and Richardson two.

“(Warren) played some real valuable minutes because both Peyton and James missed over half the game because of foul trouble,” Dinkins said.

North’s scoring: Ridenhour 14, Smith 8, Morales 6, Jordan 3, Jodee Rosales 2.

“We played well for three quarters,” Gooch said. “Wade had a hot hand and Nathan played well in the post. I’m proud of how our guys improved during the season. I’m looking to coaching this team again next year.”

North’s top four scorers for the season were Ridenhour (8.9), Carrier (8.5), Smith (7.6) and Morales (6.8).

Moor 43, Ellis 42 (OT)

The championship game at Erwin on Feb. 28 was a heart-throbber. Mooresville had a nine-point lead in the third, but Ellis rallied to a one-point lead with five seconds left in overtime.

It left everyone breathless. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they left with a coulda/shoulda loss.

Dinkins said the difference was the free-throw line. Ellis went 6 of 21 for the game, including five misses in OT.

After digging the nine-point hole in the third, Ellis scored six straight to get back in it. Defensive intensity from Hileman and Wood turned the momentum, Dinkins said.

With four seconds left in the fourth, Ellis got a heroic, game-tying basket from Crowley.

Ellis clanged three straight free throws while holding a two-point lead in OT. A Red Imp nailed a 3 to give Mooresville a 41-40 lead, but James responded with an electrifying putback to give his team a 42-41 lead with :05 left. He was fouled on the play. The free throw was no good, Mooresville threw long and a Red Imp scored an uncontested layup at :02.

Ellis was excruciatingly close to the title but settled for 13-3.

“We shoot (free throws) every single day,” Dinkins said. “But I’ve got to give the kids credit. We were down by nine and came back. I told them you’ve set a bar that will be hard to beat at Ellis.”

Notes: James (16 points, 11 rebounds) recorded a double-double. Crowley had 12 points, Fishel nine, Hough three and Warren two. … Mooresville’s only loss all season was 32-31 to Ellis on Jan. 25. … Ellis’ top three scorers for the season were James (10.4), Crowley (9.7) and Fishel (7.3).