RALEIGH — In a flurry of turnovers in the final minutes, Enloe defended its court and punched its ticket for Greenville and the Eastern Regional.
Enloe, down by as many as 14 points early, surged late and held on for a 74-67 thriller over Knightdale in an N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A Sectional.
Enloe's gym reached capacity early and many were sent away at the doors.
"You knew it was going to be this type of game," Enloe coach Tommy Moore said.
And Knightdale coach Battle Watkins didn't hang his head.
"It was a heck of a season," he said. "You can't blame these kids."
Knightdale, which brought a large, rowdy student section, jumped out to a 9-0 start, penetrating in the paint.
"It felt helpless," Enloe junior forward Melvin Tabb said. "You couldn't do anything."
The Knights took a 22-11 lead after the first quarter, led by senior guard Cameron Mealy, who scored seven of his 11 total points in the first period, including the first field goal of the game, a 3-pointer.
"They were penetrating and rebounding offensively," Moore said. "There didn't seem like much we could do about it."
Senior point guard Josh Gorham scored seven points in the second quarter, and the Knights held a 26-20 lead at the half.
Tabb scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half to keep Enloe close.
The Eagles went on a 10-4 run midway through the third quarter that left them up 52-51.
But Enloe only flirted with the lead there. Gorham responded with a pair of buckets that gave Knightdale a 57-54 lead heading into the final period.
The Knights opened the score back up to 65-59, getting four big buckets each from senior forwards Dijon Mann and Stan Okoye.
Okoye led the Knights with 19 points.
Moments later, the Eagles poured in eight consecutive points that gave them a 68-67 lead with 3:31 left.
Gorham, who finished with 15 points, had to leave the game after tweaking his ankle.
"He was penetrating at will," Moore said.
Enloe's point guard Emanuel Chapman capped off the run with a layup and foul. After scoring only six points in the first three periods, he finished the game with 16 points.
"The fourth quarter is different," Chapman said. "There's no tomorrow. I'm forced to do things. I can't let them down."
From then on, Enloe turned up its defense a notch or 10.
In the final minutes, there was a flurry of turnovers that favored Enloe.
"Right now, it's about team basketball," Chapman said. "It came down to defense."
The Eagles stretched the lead out on the free-throw line, where they were 9-of-14 in the final period.
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