Cavaliers survive Viking comeback, move into semis
It took one night into a new high school basketball postseason for the ever-present phrase, "survive and advance," to fit exactly to Southern Lee's 74-71 overtime victory over visiting Union Pines in the first round of the Cape Fear Valley Conference Tournament Tuesday night.
A night after a 55-54 loss to Terry Sanford, the Cavaliers earned another chance against top-seeded Terry Sanford, coming up Thursday in Fayetteville.
Combined with No. 3 Lee County (19-5) beating No. 6 Gray's Creek, 75-52, and No. 2 Westover beating No. 7 Douglas Byrd in the other first-round games last night, the No. 4 Cavaliers (14-9) clinched a NCHSAA 3A State Tournament berth, along with Lee County and Westover.
The Cavaliers, despite leading by 14 points with just under three minutes left in regulation, were one more Viking basket from having the season end to the Vikings.
Southern Lee took a 41-39 lead shortly into the fourth quarter and seemingly took control. Charles Wicker drained two three-pointers. Noah Mellette added another triple and Kevin McLeod's one-handed dunk made it 58-44 Cavaliers.
The Vikings rallied, mainly by pressing the Cavaliers into repeated mistakes, then taking advantage by turning the steals and quick Cav shots into quick baskets.
Armani McCoy's three-pointer cut the Cavalier lead to 60-55 with 1:40 and counting. The Cavs still led by four until a stolen inbounds pass led to Tyler Packer's lay-up, then a blocked shot at the other end led to a Viking fast break and Nick Conway's lay-up making it 61-61 with 0:52 left.
Wicker made two free throws to put Southern Lee ahead again with 0:38 left.
Malik Crawford drove inside, had one ref call traveling while another ref call a foul - which was the call that stood, then made both free throws tying the game with 0:25 left.
On the ensuing Cavalier possession, Mellette's drive to the basket came up empty and a jump ball in the lane went to the Vikings.
With 0:10 left, Crawford's driving shot was off the mark and the ball was knocked out of bounds to the Vikings. With 0:02 left, the inbounds pass toward the paint was deflected away.
In overtime, a Packer three-pointer made it 66-66, then another trey by Packer, which were his only two of the game, made it 69-68 Vikings with 1:17 left.
Behind for the first time since early in the second quarter, the Cavaliers trailed for only a few seconds before Mellette made a spot-up three-pointer from beyond the top of the key.
The overtime still came down to the wire. Wicker made 1 of 2 at the line with 0:10 left, putting the Cavs ahead 74-71. Off the missed free throw, the Vikings rushed down the court and Robert Collins had to hurriedly put up a 27-foot shot at the horn which Larry McLeod, with just reaching up, stuffed to end the game.
Union Pines led 12-9 after a quarter. An 11-0 Cavalier run in the second quarter put the Cavs up by eight and they led 25-20 at halftime.
Kevin McLeod and Justin McKinnon kept the Cavaliers in front, working hard on the offensive glass for baskets, through the third quarter. The Cavs didn't move out to a double-digit lead until the surge in the fourth quarter.
Wicker scored 16 of his 19 points and Kevin McLeod scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half and overtime. Mellette also scored 21 points. Wicker and Mellette combined for seven three-pointers.
Crawford led the Vikings with 21 points before fouling out early in overtime. Luke Davis, the Vikings' main post player, scored 16 points before fouling out with 1:29 left in regulation.
Kevin McLeod led the Cavaliers with 14 rebounds. Mellette and Wicker had four assists apiece.
Darrin Carlyle tallied eight points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Vikings before fouling out with 0:31 left in overtime.