FAYETTEVILLE — James Hemphill and Devonte’ Graham set out to finish their high school careers on top.
While sitting in class earlier this school year, the Broughton seniors put it out that they wanted to win a state championship. They moved one step closer to that goal Saturday, topping Fayetteville Seventy-first 67-59 in the NCHSAA 4A East finals.
Broughton will play next Saturday at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill for the state title.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Hemphill said. “We’ve been thinking about it and talking about it for a while now … We said we want to win a state championship, and now we have a chance to do that on Saturday.”
After entering the second half down by nine points, Broughton used its defense to spark a late run to pull ahead for the win.
Seventy-first (28-3) scored just six points in the third quarter after averaging 21 points per quarter in its semifinal win Tuesday against Clayton.
Broughton (27-5) extended its defense, trapping the Seventy-first guards. Graham, who finished with seven steals, was there ready to pick off Falcons passes and lead the fast break.
The Caps got three key steals and scored eight straight points in transition to close the third quarter and open the fourth, taking a five-point lead less than two minutes into the final period.
Seventy-first coach Myron Williams said that run changed the momentum of the game in Broughton’s favor.
“(The unforced turnovers), that’s uncharacteristic of us to do that, and with a good team like Broughton, they’re going to convert those into easy buckets,” he said.
Broughton would never trail again.
Coming into the game, Fayetteville knew it didn’t want to let Broughton get into its offensive sets, but it was the Caps’ transition game that allowed Broughton to pull ahead midway through the first quarter, and again in the fourth.
The Caps hit layups and 3-pointers in transition and cashed in on fouls off of the break to take a one-point lead after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Broughton seemed frazzled, missing transition layups and throwing the ball away four times on unforced turnovers.
Seventy-first took advantage with a 10-2 run midway through the period to take a 37-28 lead at the half.
The Caps were no stranger to being down late. In its sectional final game against Apex last week, Broughton came back from 11 points down with fewer than three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Then, it was also the Caps defense that kicked into high gear and led to a win.
Ferrell said he knows the state title matchup will be an athletic, aggressive game, but the Caps will need to focus on playing the game that has gotten them this far.
“I’ll take this group of kids, I’ll take them anywhere and play anybody,” Ferrell said. “That’s the type of confidence I have in them.”
Graham, who was named tournament MVP and led all scorers with 21 points, said that though this is unfamiliar territory for the Caps, Broughton has yet to reach its ultimate goal.
“We’ve been on varsity three years now, and we haven’t made it past the second round,” Graham said. “It’s just a great feeling, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win it all.”
Hemphill, who was named to the all-tournament team, and Cameron Gottfried added 16 and 13 points, respectively.