Late run keeps Cavaliers going
Southern Lee's boys basketball squad fought back multiple times versus Southern Wayne in the first round of the NCHSAA 3A State Tournament Monday night.
It wasn't until a 14-0 Cavalier run late in the fourth quarter that it was enough.
The Cavs turned a 49-41 deficit into a 55-49 lead, then held on in the closing seconds as the home-standing Saints had a shot to win. Southern Lee (14-9) will play again Wednesday night in the round of 32 thanks to a 56-55 victory.
In the lane at both ends, 6-foot-4 forward Kevin McLeod led the Cavaliers with 21 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.
Noah Mellette caught fire in the second half, then especially during the 14-0 rally in which he scored nine straight points to put the Cavs ahead 50-49, finishing with 19 points.
The Cavaliers fought too many turnovers throughout the game and three Cav turnovers versus Saint full-court pressing helped spot the home side an 8-0 lead in the first 2:29.
McLeod's efforts were the only thing that kept the Cavs within striking distance in the first half. Whether getting a feed on the low block, or working for a hoop or free throws off a rebound, McLeod scored 13 of Southern Lee's 21 points in the half. Southern Wayne led 26-21 at the half.
The Cavs tied it, with a Mellette three-pointer and McLeod going 2 for 2 at the line, less than a minute into the second half.
The Saints got the next four points before the Cavs got back to a 30-30 score, then 37-37 and 39-39 later in the third period.
Jaylen Roberts threw down a dunk off a cut along the baseline for a 41-37 lead ending the third period. Tarvis Bradshaw's three-pointer gave the Saints a 44-37 lead and a trey by Maurice Butler made it 49-41 Saints.
After giving the Saints easy points trying to break their press, the Cavaliers turned it around late in the game. Charles Wicker's steal led to a Mellette lay-up, then a Mellette three-pointer got the Cavs within 49-48. Another Wicker steal, and safe along the sideline to get the ball to Mellette for a lay-up, put the Cavaliers ahead for the first time.
McLeod rebounded a missed Cavalier free throw and scored for a 55-49 Cavalier lead, then about 40 seconds of keep-away on the next Cavalier possession ended with Larry McLeod going 1 for 2 at the line for a 56-51 lead.
The Saints got a basket, a Cavalier turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass, and two free throws with 0:40 left.
Another Cavalier turnover seconds later set up the Saints with a chance to go ahead, which became a patient, perhaps too patient, possession winding up with Butler trying a pull-up 16-foot shot which missed. Mellette chased down a loose rebound and raced into the Cavalier frontcourt as the last three seconds ran out.
Mellette scored 15 points in the second half. Wicker finished with seven points, all in the second half, and four assists. Justin McKinnon added six points and five boards.
Southern Lee, the No. 25 seed in the East half of the bracket, will go on the road again in the second round versus the winner of Monday night's No. 24 Asheboro at No. 9 Eastern Alamance game.