Jaguars turn the table on Southern
The third time, along with lots of intense defense, was the charm for Overhills against Southern Lee in the semifinals of the Cape Fear Valley Conference boys' basketball tourney Thursday night at Westover High School.
The Jaguars (17-7) led 42-25, then had to turn back a huge Cavalier surge in the second half, before pulling away again for an 84-73 win and a spot in tonight's CFVC final.
Southern Lee (14-10) won two tighter, lower-scoring contests in the regular season against the Jaguars. The Jaguar trapping led to 27 Cavalier turnovers this time, then plenty of transition buckets, along with three dunks.
For Southern Lee head coach Gaston Collins, it was some about crediting Overhills and some about what he knows his Cavs can do better.
"Overhills really came out ready to play tonight. They were prepared for us and shot extremely well most of the game," Collins said.
At the same time, while the Jags came out playing their game, the Cavs shouldn't have put themselves in as big a hole.
"Our guys never quit, but the thing is, we never should've been in that situation if we take care of the ball, minimize our turnovers, do a better job sharing the basketball and get our teammates involved better," Collins said.
Senior swingman Theron Cole led the Jag shooting early, hitting two threes as Overhills ran out to a 12-5 lead in the first four minutes. The Jaguars forced 10 Cavalier turnovers in the first eight minutes and led 21-13.
Josh Mason turned an interception at midcourt into his second breakaway jam of the early going for a 25-13 Jaguar lead 45 seconds into the second quarter.
Mason led Overhills with 12 points in the first half. Post player Robert Johnson added 10 points, as the main option when the Jags had to run some half-court offense. Point guard Jared Foster had six points and four assists in the half.
Overhills maintained a safe lead until the last couple minutes of the third. A three-pointer by Christian Locust and a driving lay-up down the paint by Justin McKinnon made for a quick 5-0 Cavalier spurt but there was still no sign of a swing as the Jags led 53-41.
A 10-0 Southern Lee burst in the last 1:15 of the quarter changed all the momentum. Locust drained a guarded three, then Cavalier pressing paid off. Andre Hewitt finished a break after a steal by Damian Brown set it up, then Locust got a lay-up off a Jaguar turnover.
As the Jaguars tried for the last shot of the period, Juwon Jackson's steal and outlet gave Locust a running 30-foot shot at the horn. Locust's shot hit the back iron, bounded past the top of the backboard, then straight down through the hoop, closing the Cavs within 55-51 with a quarter to play.
The Cavs kept coming with Jackson scoring a three-point play in the low post for a 57-57 score with 6:41 remaining.
"What we try to instill in the guys is to play until the last horn goes," Collins said. "It's 32 minutes out there and a game like this is about runs."
Overhills had the last run though. Momentum reversed quickly when Foster hit a three-pointer, then stole the ball in the backcourt a couple seconds later and went in for a dunk. Dexter McCrae's three-pointer made it 65-58 Jaguars with five minutes to go.
The Cavs fought back within two on a couple of occasions. Locust hit a triple, making it 68-66 Jaguars, only for Foster to answer right back with a three.
McKinnon scored a three-point play making it 73-71 Jaguars, only for Overhills to score the next five points. Overhills did a good job at the line in the last 1:03 to put the game away.
Foster scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half to go with eight rebounds and five steals. Mason added 19 points for the Jaguars.
Juwon Jackson led the Cavaliers with 25 points and seven boards. McKinnon had 18 points and seven rebounds. Locust scored 19 points.
Overhills will get the winner of Thursday's late semifinal, Douglas Byrd vs. Westover, in Friday's final.
Southern Lee has a spot in the NCHSAA 3A State Tournament and will learn its place in the bracket on Saturday.