Cavalier rally falls shy
Noah Mellette is a freshman but he'd already hit lots of big shots, including game-winning ones, for Southern Lee this season going into the Cavs' second round state tournament game at Eastern Alamance Wednesday night.
Mellette did everything he could to shoot the Cavaliers past the higher-seeded, and bigger, Eagles, scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter, including his fourth three-pointer of the quarter to tie the game at 62-62 with 1:10 left. Southern Lee's comeback never claimed a lead though and Eastern Alamance (24-5) advanced to the round of 16 with a 66-62 win.
The No. 3-seeded Eagles, while having a size advantage around the hoop, were led by their point guard, Lamont Robinson, who had 25 points and five assists.
While the No. 6 Cavaliers (15-11) had success inside and outside throughout the first three quarters, once the Eagles had pulled away to a 48-37 lead early in the fourth quarter, Mellette found his zone from beyond the arc and nearly brought the Cavs all the way back.
Already with one triple and a three-point play off a fast break in the period, just to keep the Cavs within shouting distance, Mellette drained a three to make it 58-51 Eagles with 4:11 left, then another huge three to cut the Eagle lead to 59-55 with 2:45 left.
Six-foot-7 center Jalyn Riley grabbed a rebound and scored a short putback, followed by Southern Lee's 6-foot-2 big man Juwon Jackson fouling out of the game on a charging call on the next Cavalier possession.
Juwon Jackson led the Cavalier offense for the first three quarters, as the Cavs had lots of success inside even while outsized. Jackson had 15 points through three quarters and finished with 18 points and six boards.
When point guard Jalen Jackson fouled out as well, with the Cavs trailing 61-57 with 1:35 left, it meant the Cavs would have to go down the stretch with no seniors on the court. Fellow senior guard Christian Locust, a key scorer from the perimeter all season long, missed both state tournament games because of illness.
After getting hit one a three-point shot, Mellette made two at the line to bring the Cavs within a possession, down 62-59, with 1:27 left.
An empty trip to the line by Eastern Alamance gave the Cavs a shot to tie. Mellette took the shot, rising for a deep three and hitting it.
Robinson, who frustrated the Cavs with his quickness, either for his own shot or a dish, a couple of which went to Riley for soaring two-handed jams, drove the lane again but missed and Southern's Justin McKinnon fought to get the rebound.
Trying to use the last 0:35 for a last shot, guard Andrew Carnegie lost the ball off the dribble and Eagle forward John Lamont dove on the loose ball and was fouled with 0:17 left.
Lamont made both free throws to put the Eagles ahead. The Cavs got the ball to Mellette, who tried to get space for a shot off the dribble. His fading three-pointer from the right corner was blocked and the Eagles recovered the loose ball. Kedar Sweezer went 2-fo-2 at the line putting it out of reach for the Cavs with 4.3 seconds left.
Mellette scored 18 of his 25 points in the last quarter, and 18 of Southern Lee's 25 points in the quarter, and hit five threes on the night.
Juwon Jackson and McKinnon got the Cavs off to a good start working in the paint. Jackson scored the first two Cavalier hoops of the game. McKinnon got the next six points. A three by Andre Hewitt closed the first period and put the Cavs up 17-14. Mellette's first three of the game made it 20-14 Cavs.
The Eagles took the lead with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes. Off an inbounds play in the closing seconds of the half, Robinson made a fadeaway 25-foot three-pointer for a 31-25 Eagle lead at halftime.
A Juwon Jackson bucket inside made it 34-32 Eagles early in the third period. Robinson began taking over for the hosts from there. He scored seven points in the third quarter and the Eagles led 45-37 going to the fourth.
Robinson hit a 30-foot three-pointer, as he calmly spotted up off an inbounds pass and made it, nearly from out of bounds on the left wing, to take the Eagle lead to 11 early in the fourth period.
The Cavs resorted to pressing and trapping much of the last few minutes and their rally would have made up ground quicker but for Robinson. His quickness with the ball usually resulted in a Cavalier foul rather than a turnover and he went 6-for-6 at the line at one stretch.
Josh Long and Riley finished with 12 points each for the Eagles. The Cavaliers won the turnover column 14-12.
McKinnon had nine points and nine rebounds for the Cavs. Jalen Jackson had five assists.
Southern Lee, runner-up in the Cape Fear Valley for the season, ends the season going one round deeper into states than last season. The Cavs went 12-3 in the 2013 part of their schedule.
More state tournament finals from Wed.
1A - No. 1 Winston-Salem Prep 97, No. 9 North Moore 43
2A - No. 1 Kinston 80, No. 8 Northwood 35
3A - No. 7 Havelock 63, No. 2 Triton 61
2A - No. 2 Northwood 47, No. 7 Cedar Ridge 37
2A - No. 5 Jordan-Matthews 53, No. 13 Cummings 45
3A - No. 11 Southern Guilford 58, No. 3 Overhills 49
3A - No. 2 Chapel Hill 71, No. 7 Triton 14
4A - No. 1 Southeast Raleigh 55, No. 9 Harnett Central 45
Third round games
No. 3 Kinston (23-4) at No. 2 Northwood (24-4) - 7 p.m.
No. 5 Jordan-Matthews (25-4) at No. 1 Reidsville (23-3) - 7 p.m.