The Southern Lee Cavaliers enter their third sectional final in the last four years, this time playing at home against Northeast Guilford. Check back to this post for running updates and instant analysis from tonight’s game.
8:00 Great, great crowd in Southern Lee’s gym. Northeast Guilford has traveled really well. Seems that even the cheerleaders are competing by seeing who can be louder.
5:34 Low scoring to start, and Southern’s A.J. Jackson hits a 3-pointer. 5-2, Cavs.
4:41 5-4, Cavaliers. Just a note, Northeast Guilford coach Curtis Hunter played at North Carolina in 1985. Wonder if he has any eligibility left.
4:09 Ace Chalmers steal and layup. Southern Lee, 7-4.
3:09 Nifty pass inside from Chalmers to Josh Mellette, and Cavs are off to a solid start with a 9-4 edge. Southern Lee is doing a nice job getting a number of their offensive weapons invoilved early.
2:15 Rams need a timeout. Cavaliers, 11-5.
1:44 Twice the Rams can only connect on one of two shots from the foul line, and Chalmers makes them pay, hitting on another layup. 13-6, Southern Lee.
0:00 A couple of buckets for Northeast Guilford brings it back into the game, but Jackson hits another 3 as time expires, giving the Cavaliers a 16-10 edge after the first period.
Southern Lee doing a nice job forcing turnovers and getting into transition. The Rams suffered from five TOs in the first quarter and allowed the Cavaliers to build the lead. Evenly called game by the officials.
7:20 Here come the Rams. Four straight points to open the quarter, and Southern Lee needs a quick timeout. The Cavaliers are about to get an earful of “Dad-gummits” from coach Gaston Collins. 16-14.
5:22 Turnovers mounting for Cavaliers as Rams pick up pressure, but Southern hangs onto lead, 16-14.
4:09 Cavs can’t score and Northeast Guilford is having no trouble. After a steal and layup by Abdul Tijani, Bryce Benjamin gets yet another steal and feeds Donovan Griffith for a 3. 19-16, Rams.
3:56 Starters back in for Southern Lee.
2:51 Southern Lee has to — HAS TO — take better care of the ball. A whopping eight turnovers in the second quarter, and the Rams lead 21-17. One whole point for the Cavaliers this period.
2:08 Finally, a Southern Lee field goal. Mellette with a lay-in. 21-19, Rams.
1:15 Cavaliers may be in some trouble. Chalmers misses two foul shots, and the Rams’ Benjamin connects from long range. Northeast Guilford enjoys its biggest lead, 26-19.
1:01 Mellette attempts a 3. Not his shot.
Halftime — 26-20, Northeast Guilford
Cavaliers are alive, down just 26-20 after an ugly second period. This isn’t exactly uncharted waters for Southern Lee, which trailed by five in the second round against Eastern Alamance. The Cavaliers have thrived on big second halves of games all season long.
At the break, Southern Lee is led by Mellette’s seven points, while Jackson has six on two 3s. Southern Lee, though, has a stunning 17 turnovers and has hit only 2 of 6 foul shots.
Northeast Guilford has seven points from Benjamin, six from Griffith and five from Darius White.
7:45 Rams’ Benjamin stays hot. It’s a deep 3 and a 29-20 lead.
6:36 Cavs missing foul shots in a fashion that calls to mind their 37 percent performance from the stripe in their league tournament loss to Douglas Byrd. Now 2 of 8. 29-22, Rams
6:09 Dunk by the Rams’ Griffith. This one might be getting away from Southern Lee.
5:14 Third timeout for the Cavaliers, who are down 11, 33-22. A quiet, stunned Southern Lee crowd.
4:28 Huge, huge 3 off the bench for Laquan Thomas. 33-26, Rams.
3:32 Another two missed foul shots for the Cavaliers. 3 of 12.
And the Rams make theirs. White with two freebies. 35-26, NEG.
2:12 Unless the Cavaliers can find some magic, this one may be done. 39-26, a 29-16 run for the Rams since the end of the first quarter. Northeast Guilford is just bigger and stronger, and Southern Lee isn’t helping itself at the line.
1:09 A Southern Lee rebound — and turnover.
36 seconds Cavs aren’t dead yet. Robert Richard pulls a rebound and feeds a full-court pass to Chalmers for a bucket.
24 seconds Richard fouled on the defensive rebound, and hits BOTH foul shots. 41-34, Rams.
0:00 Paris Scales misses two foul shots for NEG, and Cavs get into the fourth quarter down just seven, 41-34.
6:54 Down to five after a Darius Gill put-back. 41-36.
6:44 Richard hustling and hustling. Two big boards. Hits a foul shot. 41-37, Rams.
Southern faithful are back into it. That’s putting it mildly.
5:29 Rams end their drought with a White layup. 43-37, and Southern needs a timeout after it can’t inbound the ball against NEG’s pressure.
Southern Lee will have to win this game with its defense. If the Rams keep scoring, the Cavaliers won’t have much of an answer against the NEG press.
5:10 Rams 43-38 after a Richard free throw.
4:37 Richard is fouled after rebounding a Chalmers miss, but can’t connect on either foul shot. Cavs need stops.
3:45 And Southern Lee can’t get them. Griffith dunks for a 7-point lead, and though Richard answers, Griffith scores again on two foul shots. 47-40, Rams.
3:32 Chalmers to Gill. 47-42.
2:37 Four straight points for Northeast Guilford, and that may do it. 51-42.
2:15 Timeout, Southern, and Gill scores coming out of it. 51-44, Rams, and the Cavs are pressing.
1:58 NEG turnover.
1:18 Cavs can’t convert, but Rams can. White layup, 53-44.
1:07 Gill hits two free throws for Southern, which is forced to foul. 53-46, Rams.
58 seconds Cavs had a chance. White misses one of two foul shots, but Benjamin hauls in the rebound of the miss, and hits the put-back while being fouled. He misses the bonus, but it’s 56-46, Rams.
15 seconds Chalmers with a 3, and Richard with a steal, but it’s all too late. 60- 50, Rams.
Northeast Guilford is allowed to run the clock out.
Final — Northeast Guilford 60, Southern Lee 50
A tough loss certainly for the hometown Southern Lee Cavaliers, but what a remarkable season. Southern Lee never allowed itself to lower its own expectations despite losing four starters from a year ago, including one of North Carolina’s best players, Akeem Richmond. A tremendous accomplishment to win two playoff games.