Bull­dogs fall in fi­nal to Lak­ers

Times-Record - - Front Page - By DAVID INSLEY dins­ley@star­dem.com

— North Caro­line High’s boys’ bas­ket­ball reached the state fi­nal with a 62-48 vic­tory over River Hill Fri­day, March 9, but then fell to Lake Clifton 63-55 in the state fi­nal on Satur­day.

— As the Class 2A play­offs pro­gressed, the North Caro­line High boys’ bas­ket­ball team un­der­went a num­ber of changes — in per­for­mance and how it was viewed — just as it had done dur­ing the 20-game reg­u­lar sea­son.

En­ter­ing the post­sea­son as the third seed in Sec­tion II of the East bracket, the Bull­dogs were def­i­nitely an un­der­dog af­ter a first-round win over Queen Anne’s.

Hav­ing to win on the road against Eas­ton, a team they lost to twice dur­ing the sea­son, and then need­ing to get past 24-0 Wi­comico, the Bull­dogs were un­doubt­edly an un­der­dog.

But as se­nior big man Ja’Mion Franklin put it Satur­day night, “they un­der­es­ti­mated us.”

Though he was re­fer­ring to Lake Clifton, Satur­day night’s op­po­nent in the 2A state cham­pi­onship, Franklin’s point ap­plied to many of the pre­vi­ous 25 games as well, as North Caro­line went from be­ing an un­der­dog in early Fe­bru­ary to one of the top dogs in the state by mid-March.

North Caro­line “played the way I knew they could,” as head coach Steve Perry said, beat­ing Eas­ton in the sec­ond play­off round, then un­beaten Wi­comico, both by dou­ble dig­its. They fol­lowed that with a blowout of Har­ford Tech for the re­gional ti­tle, Perry’s first in two stints coach­ing the team, to­tal­ing 12 sea­sons.

The Bull­dogs, who were 4-4 on New Year’s Day and with­out Di­vi­sion-I ath­lete David Bai­ley, got healthy, played de­fense, and went 10-2 down the stretch. They then won five play­off games — pos­si­bly a sin­gle­sea­son first in school his­tory — be­fore fall­ing 63-55 to Lake Clifton last night in the 2A fi­nale.

Trail­ing by as many as 11 points in the first half, Lake Clifton (22-5) ral­lied in the sec­ond. Nar­row­ing the Bull­dog lead to 49-47 at the end of the third pe­riod, the Lak­ers pow­ered past the East cham­pi­ons with a 16-6 fourth quar­ter to give head coach Her­man “Tree” Har­ried the fourth ti­tle in his 21-year ten­ure.

The Bull­dogs (19-7), hav­ing eliminated 2A South champ River Hill, 62-48 in Fri­day night’s semi­fi­nals, proved Franklin’s point for most of Satur­day’s fi­nal.

Lead­ing 17-11 af­ter one quar­ter — nine points com­ing from down­town by guard Joey Adams (game­high 26 points) — the Bull­dogs played the Lakes even in the sec­ond quar­ter, 1818, never re­lin­quish­ing the lead.

Se­nior for­ward Bai­ley, who, like Adams, joined the 1,000-point scor­ing club dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, was dif­fi­cult to con­tain early. Like Adams, Bai­ley went into the locker room at the break hav­ing scored a game-lead­ing 13 points.

But in the sec­ond half, Bai­ley, who is headed to Bos­ton Col­lege to play foot­ball, was de­nied the free­dom to move to his right by the Lak­ers, “to stop his shot... which was a dif­fi­cult thing to stop,” Har­ried said.

The change, like the de­fen­sive switch to a 1-3-1 in the sec­ond quar­ter of Fri­day night’s semi­fi­nal de­feat of Oak­dale, paid div­i­dends for the Lak­ers. Bai­ley scored just four more points af­ter in­ter­mis­sion.

Mean­while, the Lak­ers, who had no play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures, and shot just 44 per­cent (11 for 25) from the floor in the first half, picked things up of­fen­sively.

An 18-14 third-quar­ter push cut the Bull­dogs’ lead to 49-47 go­ing into the fourth. Lak­ers guard Ben­jamin Carter, who fin­ished with 15 points and eight re­bounds, tied things 15 sec­onds into the fourth with a layup.

Adams hit a jumper a mo­ment later for a 51-49 Bull­dogs lead. But Lake Clifton then hit its stride, post man Ron­ald Lu­cas (14 points, 13 re­bounds, three blocks) ty­ing the game with a layup with 5:45 to go.

Carter, fouled on his next shot, hit one of the two free throws a few sec­onds later, to give the Lak­ers their first lead of the night, at 52-51.

The Bull­dogs, who made just one of five fourth-quar­ter 3-point at­tempts, got one at just the right time, though to pull ahead one last time, Adams find­ing the net with 4:46 to go and mak­ing it 54-52.

But it turned out to be Caro­line’s last bucket from the floor, Michael Gray of the Lak­ers driv­ing in to tie it at 54-54 with 3:45 left to play. Carter’s trey, the only Laker 3-poin­ter of the game, made it 57-54 with 3:15 to go, ac­counted for the third and fi­nal lead change, and put the 2A North champs up for good.

Lake Clifton scored six of the game’s last seven points af­ter that as the Bull­dogs, forced to foul late, could not close the gap.

“We just didn’t fin­ish,” Franklin said. “I think the ball bounced a cou­ple of bad ways for us, a cou­ple of calls didn’t go our way.”

“No­body thought we could make it this far,” Adams said. “I’m glad that we got here, that we could play here. We knew we could get to this point.”

Notes: The Bull­dogs shot 20 for 50 (40 per­cent) from the floor in Fri­day night’s win over River Hill, and went 19 for 50 (38 per­cent) in Satur­day’s loss . ... North Caro­line outscored its two state-tour­na­ment foes by a com­bined to­tal of 117-111 . ... North Caro­line com­mit­ted just seven turnovers Satur­day, pos­si­bly a sea­son-low . ... Adams scored a game-high 31 points against River Hill. ... North Caro­line’s state tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance this year was its sixth over­all, and first in 29 years; the team won the state ti­tle in 1987, fin­ished sec­ond in 1962, and made the fi­nal four in 1976, 1977, and 1989.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

North Caro­line high’s boys’ bas­ket­ball fin­ished the 2018 sea­son as the Mary­land state run­ner-up af­ter fall­ing to Lake Clifton in the state ti­tle game Satur­day, March 9.

North Caro­line’s Joey Adams scores and gets fouled against Lake Clifton in the state fi­nal Satur­day.

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