RALEIGH — It might have been a long time coming, but it looked worth the wait as Ravenscroft fans and students stormed the court in celebration of the school's first boys' basketball state championship in 32 years.
Ravenscroft defeated Greensboro Day 64-52 in the N.C. Independent School Athletic Association 3A championship Saturday at the Ravenscroft campus. The Ravens knocked off five-time defending champion Arden Christ School, the alma mater of Mason and Miles Plumlee of Duke, in the semifinals and continually withstood Greensboro Day rallies in the final.
"It feels like we won the lottery," junior Anton Gill said, clutching the championship trophy to his chest.
The game was filled with scoring streaks ,and the Ravens made the most important of those in the final minutes. Ravenscroft led 47-45 at the end of a Greensboro Day run but won the game with a combination of big offensive and defensive plays.
Madison Jones scored to start the decisive spurt. Quinn Billerman drew a charge. Jones made a free throw and Billerman drew another charge. Jones scored and the lead was 54-45 with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left.
"We had those two charges against us. The calls didn't go our way, and I think the momentum shifted," said Freddy Johnson, coach at Greensboro Day. "The momentum shifted back to (Ravenscroft)."
Quinn Billerman said the Ravens didn't think Greensboro Day would quit.
"We knew they we're going to make their move," he said.
"We just had to weather the storm, and continue to play our game, and that's what we did."
Ravenscroft kept the momentum. Andrew Franz hit the Ravens' next shot, making it 56-45 with just under four minutes left.
The Bengals' shooting struggled. Jalen Ross made one of two from the free-throw line to close within 10 at 56-46, but that's as close as the Bengals were able to get.
The remainder of Ravenscroft's damage was done from the foul line. Bengals 3-pointers fell off the mark as the clock wound down. The Bengals made only two 3-pointers in the game.
"I told the boys, if we could get to the four- , five-minute mark (of fourth quarter) and go to our 'motion high' (offense) with a lead, we could win the game," Ravenscroft coach Kevin Billerman said. "We're very difficult to cover in our 'motion high.' We've got good ballhandlers and generally good free-throw shooters and we're a smart team."
The Ravens only had four players score, but they each finished in double figures to help Ravenscroft to its second state title.
For a while, it looked like no late run would be needed. Ravenscroft, which finished 31-3 and was seeded No. 2 in the tournament, jumped to a 16-2 lead in the first quarter forcing Johnson, the state's winningest high school basketball coach, to use timeouts to slow the Ravens' spurt.
Greensboro Day (31-4 and the No. 4 seed) settled down and closed to 19-11 before the Ravens' Marcus Byran began to dominate. His inside scoring and work on the defensive boards, plus a 3-pointer, helped the Ravens push the lead to 36-20.
The Bengals were down but not out, and a basket and free throw by Quayshad Williams made it 37-31 with 6:05 left in the third quarter.
The Ravens countered with an Andrew Franz basket and two technical foul shots by Gill to push the lead back to 10.
But when Jones, a junior guard, sat down with his fourth foul with just under five minutes left in the third quarter, Greensboro Day roared back to cut the deficit to 41-37, forcing coach Billerman to put Jones back in.
"I had to put Madison back in, and I told him he had to play smart," Billerman said.
Jones didn't commit another foul for the rest of the game while continuing to contribute offensively. He finished with 22 points to lead all scorers.
"I knew I had to stay aggressive," Jones said. "My mindset didn't change. I couldn't think about a charge or fouls."
Jones was key in the decisive final spurt by the Ravens.
"It is gratifying as a coach for a team to win the state championship," coach Billerman said.
"This team has accomplished something that no other team has done in 32 years at this point. I'm proud of them and they should be proud of themselves."