This time, it looked like it was over. Here are a few observations from Thursday night’s second-round playoff game between the Southern Lee Cavaliers and the Northeast Guilford Rams.
The Southern Lee Cavaliers never panicked.
Even as Seth Hawkins was raining 3-pointers like they were layups, the Cavaliers’ stayed within themselves. The game appeared lost at least twice, and yet the only time Cavaliers coach Chris Cherry was animated followed a foul by one of his players on a made 3-point shot.
But Cherry knew the score. Not the one in red lights, but the flow of the game. The Rams were insanely hot — they made eight 3s in the first half alone — and Cherry knew it couldn’t stay that way forever. And if it had, well, you tip your cap and move on.
But the Cavaliers made two of their typical runs, only this time, instead of taking the game over with them, they stayed in it. Southern Lee had a 14-1 stretch spanning the first and second quarters to escape from a 13-point deficit, and followed the Rams’ 10-2 stretch covering halftime with a 16-5 run to take their first lead of the game, 58-55, with 7:26 to go in the game.
Those kinds of runs have helped the Cavaliers to a 26-3 record, and they’re the kind that usually make a 10-point game into a 30-point laugher. On this night, though, they allowed Southern Lee to stay alive at least one more night.
I know I’ve written this a few times already, but just how good have Raymond Brown and Donte Alston been? Alston, with his quick release and smooth, almost loping gait, reminds an old-school hoops fan of the Rifleman, Chuck Person. But Alston more than just looked like Person, he shot like him, burying four 3s in scoring 18 points off the bench.
“(Alston) stepped up big,” said Northeast Guilford coach Curtis Hunter. “He made some critical 3s, and they weren’t right on the line either. They were from a ways out.”
And Brown, who may have more basketball IQ on the team than anybody, scored 10 points in the third quarter on his way to 22 off the bench. If the Cavaliers are going to upset state champion contender Dudley, he will need a big game.
You’re going to hear a lot about “The Run,” and rightfully so. Nine points in 22 seconds is always impressive, especially when six of those points come in less than 10 seconds. It’s even more stunning when you consider that the game was won by that run. Southern Lee went from a tenuous one-point lead to a 10-point edge with 4 minutes to go. That was all she wrote, and a later 3 by Akeem Richmond put the Cavaliers on a 34-10 scoring binge after they fell behind by 11 points early in the third quarter.
Another reason why the Cavaliers had reason to believe they would get back into the game? Northeast Guilford three times this season had Dudley on the ropes, and let it off the hook all three times. The Rams even opened a game against Dudley with a 25-6 run, and lost.
Aaron Mellette left everything he had on the floor on Thursday night. Just an inspiring performance. His 11 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots only begin to tell the story of how well and how important he played.
Darrell Alston only had two points, but his defense on Hawkins in the game’s last 12 minutes was breathtaking. Hawkins still made three 3-pointers in the second half, but all three were well behind the arc, and those nine points were a far cry from the 21 he had at the half.
Quote of the night: “We took two haymakers. But it’s like I told the kids, it’s different playing with a 10-point cushion and playing a tie game. Once it got to be a tight game, I think (Northeast Guilford) got a little tight.” — Cavs coach Chris Cherry