Hurricanes beat Manteo at home in second round of state playoffs
By JORDAN TOMBERLIN
In sports, there are the games that you lose, there are the games that
you win, and then, there are the games in which you triumph.
It was a fight from the first whistle to the final buzzer, but when it
was all said and done—after 32 minutes of heart-pumping,
gut-wrenching, nerve-shattering play —it was the Lady Canes who
had come out on top, beating the Lady Redskins by one point,
The Lady Canes knew going into it that this would be a tough
game. The Redskins and the Hurricanes had met twice earlier
the season, and both times, the Redskins had handed the Hurricanes a
loss. On top of that, according to Head Coach Earl Fountain, the
Redskins were a quicker team than the Hurricanes—an area where
they are very seldom bested.
And for the first half of the first quarter, Manteo looked every bit
the favorite. They took the first possession, they put the first points
on the board, they out-rebounded the Canes two-to-one, and while the
Hurricanes struggled to get something going offensively, the Redskins
cut through their zone press like a hot knife through butter.
Fountain subbed junior Jessea Midgett for senior Tori Ballance early
in the first quarter, and Midgett banked the first bucket of the game
for the Canes—an under-the-basket shot off one of the
Canes’ first offensive rebounds.
Midgett’s basket was followed by a three from senior Lauren
Randall, which seemed to swing some momentum the Canes’ way. They
began to settle into their zone defense—a defense that, according
to Fountain, they had only run once or twice during the
season—and they started to come to life on offense.
When senior Paxton Gwin sank a three, four minutes into the quarter,
the Canes took the lead. Seconds later, she stole the ball, drove to
the basket, drew a foul, and sank both of her free throws.
Gwin continued to carry her team offensively, scoring all but five of
the Canes’ first quarter points, and by the end of the quarter,
they were ahead of the Redskins 17-11.
But, the Redskins weren’t about to give up that easily.
They started the second quarter off with a vengeance, forcing turnovers
and dominating the boards. However, they struggled from both the
perimeter and the free throw line, and the Canes’ tight zone was
shutting off the lane.
By the end of the second quarter, the Canes had hit a groove. Gwin was
on fire from the perimeter, and sophomore Maggie Easley and junior
Clever were getting more and more aggressive in the paint.
Even after a series of missed lay-ups and unnecessary fouls gave the
Redskins an opportunity to stage a comeback late in the quarter, the
Hurricanes still ended the half with a 32-26 lead.
But anyone who thought the Redskins were ready to throw in the towel
was quickly proven wrong. They stepped up their perimeter game and
started sinking more of their foul shots, and late in the third
quarter, they capitalized on several Hurricane turnovers and missed
shot opportunities, going on a 6-point tear that brought them within
one point of the Canes.
It remained an extremely close game for most of the fourth quarter, and
with 2:17 left to play, Manteo’s Amanda Daniels sank a
three-pointer that tied it up.
It was the first time since the early minutes of the first quarter that
the Canes hadn’t held the lead.
Seconds later, Easley went to the line. She sank both her free throws,
which gave the Canes a two point lead. Midgett followed with a long
jumper that put the crowd on their feet and the Canes up by four.
The Manteo girls answered with a jumper of their own.
With one minute left and the Canes up by two, Fountain called a
time-out. When the girls came back on the floor, it was clear they were
going to try to run down the clock, waiting until the final seconds to
take the last shot.
Manteo had other plans.
One of the Redskins picked off a Hurricane pass and drove down to the
basket for an easy, unguarded lay-up that tied the game with 35 seconds
left to play.
The Hurricanes held onto the ball, again trying to ensure that they got
off the last shot of the game.
For 25 seconds—that seemed like 25 minutes—the Canes passed
the ball around, effectively playing monkey-in-the-middle with
Manteo’s defenders, and in an effort to steal the ball, one of
them fouled Randall.
With 10.8 seconds left in a tied ballgame—and not just any tied
ballgame, a tied playoff game, against a rival school, that had already
beaten them twice—Lauren Randall stepped up to the free throw
line for her two shots.
No pressure, right?
By this time, everyone in the stands was on his or her feet. Manteo
fans were making noise in an effort to distract her. Hurricane fans
erupted into a wild roar after her first free throw hit nothing but the
bottom of the net.
After her second shot bounced off the rim, it fell into Manteo’s
hands, and they tried furiously to get to the basket before it was too
late. Hatteras, on the other hand, tried furiously to stop them, while
being careful not to foul.
With 1.2 seconds remaining, one of Manteo’s players stepped out
of bounds while fighting for the ball under the basket. All the
Hurricanes had to do was get the ball safely inbounds and hold on to it
for less than two seconds.
And they did.
I think it’s safe to say that the crowd went wild. The stands
emptied out onto the court, everyone huddling around the players, all
of them hugging, chanting, cheering, and celebrating what was a very
hard-fought victory for the Lady Hurricanes.
The Lady Hurricanes will play again on Friday night, February 26, at
home, in the Sectional Finals of the NCHSAA State Playoffs. The game
begins at 7 p.m.
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