Athens Drive took home all the championship hardware Thursday night at the fourth annual Bojangles’ Cleveland Classic basketball tournament.
The Jaguars defeated Sanderson 50-46 in the boys final and the Athens girls stopped Rocky Mount 65-58 in the girls final.
In third-place games, the Clayton boys defeated host Cleveland 58-50 and the Fuquay-Varina girls defeated Cleveland 62-37.
In fifth-place games, the Fuquay-Varina boys defeated Nash Central 51-48 and the Nash Central girls stopped Clayton 51-46.
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In seventh-place games, the Rocky Mount boys defeated West Johnston 75-55 and the Kinston girls topped West Johnston 53-37.
Athens Drive (9-3) used its speed to generate numerous fastbreak baskets and built an 11-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. But seven straight Athens misses at the free throw line allowed Sanderson to claw back into the game.
The Spartans (6-7) cut the lead to 48-46 on a 3-pointer by Joshua Fife with 38 seconds remaining.
With 6.6 seconds left, D.J. Robertson, the boys MVP, stepped to the line for Athens. Robertson, who had missed his four previous free throws, sank a pair to push the lead to 50-46.
It would be enough.
“The first thing DJ said to me was I have to go back and practice free throws,” Athens Drive coach Robbie St. John said. “He’s a 73 percent free throw shooter. Who knows (what happened on the misses). But he hit the ones that mattered for us.”
The tournament title was good for the Jaguars, a young team with just four seniors, St. John said.
“It’s good for our seniors,” he said. “We are still in the process of rebuilding but I think this is a very good step in the right direction for us.”
Robertson finished with a game-high 17 points to lead the Jaguars. Tre Echols added 12.
Sanderson (6-7) was led by Trent Dunn with 16 points and JD Greenwade with 14.
Junior Robin Gallagher was virtually unstoppable for Athens Drive, pouring in 33 points to capture MVP honors and lead the Jaguars to the title.
Whenever Athens needed a basket or a free throw, it seemed as if Gallagher was in the right spot and came up with crucial points.
“She’s our leader,” Athens Drive coach Dayna Jordan said. “She made things happen and we were successful.”
Rocky Mount (7-2) used an aggressive, pressure defense to take and early lead – ahead 18-8 at the end of the first period. But Athens settled down and was able to tie the score at 24-24 by halftime.
“We were a little shellshocked,” Jordan said. “I had scouted them and knew that they pressured really, really well. I think our team was still caught off guard with how physical and aggressive they were.”
With Gallagher leading the way, the Jaguars (9-4) were able to build a 10-point cushion in the fourth period. And down the stretch, Gallagher went 6-for-6 at the free throw line to seal the satisfying victory.
“It feels really good,” Gallagher said. “We had a couple of rough conference games where lost by only a few points. It’s good to come in here and play as well as we can play and get things done.”
Rocky Mount had a stellar performer of its own. Senior Keyanna Spivey had 28 points. Michelle Gainey added 17.
BOYS THIRD PLACE
Junior MaCaleb Robertson scored 18 points to lead Clayton (8-4) past Cleveland (5-9).
The Comets had a balanced attack, getting 13 points from Elijah Bradshaw and 12 from Martavis McLamb.
Clayton led 51-48 with 2:30 remaining in the game, but went on a 7-0 run to go up by 10 at 58-48.
“We came out with a lot of intensity and then we relaxed a little bit, and that can be a recipe for disaster,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “But we did what we had to do to win.”
Cleveland was led by Hamilton Harrison with 12 points and Blake Mauldin with 10.
GIRLS THIRD PLACE
Fuquay-Varina (7-5) won this one in the first quarter, bolting to a 27-7 advantage over Cleveland (6-8) after one period.
“That was probably the best first quarter I have seen this team play,” Fuquay-Varina coach Gail Siemer said. “They came out with high energy and executed exactly what we talked about, which I was extremely impressed with.”
Cleveland was never able to chip into the big lead, trailing 33-17 at halftime and 48-19 at the end of the third period.
The Bengals got double-figure scoring from four players – Cierra Baker with 15, MarYahna Richardson with 14, Ava Bethea with 12 and Aysha Diallo with 11.
Cleveland was led by Tehya Lee with 14 points.
BOYS FIFTH PLACE
Fuquay-Varina (4-8) used clutch free throw shooting in the final seconds to win the tight game against Nash Central (8-3).
The Bengals made 5 of 6 from the line in the final 32.9 seconds, getting a pair from Dillon Butler and three from Ladji Samora.
Bengals coach Danny Strong pointed to defense and rebounding as the keys to the victory.
“I think we played better defense than we displayed in previous games,” Strong said. “Our biggest thing has been boxing out and controlling the rebounds. I think we did a great job on offensive and defensive rebounds.”
He continued: “I think we fought a ltttle more and believed in our potential to win.”
Sophomore Dillon Butler led the Bengals with 16 points and Trey Terry had 12.
Nash Central was paced by Montre’ Cash and Elijah Cole with 16 points each.
GIRLS FIFTH PLACE
Michaela Nelms scored 20 points and Myia Spivey added 17 to lead Nash Central (5-6) past Clayton (9-4).
Nash Central led 16-14 at halftime, but expanded the margin to 10 points in the third quarter at 31-21 when Nelms converted a 3-point play. The Bulldogs controlled the game the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs got their running game going in the pivotal third quarter.
“I think we got a couple of steals and were able to convert those into layups,” Nash Central coach Terri Cash said. “We are a little bit better at fullcourt than at halfcourt.”
Clayton was led by Endaisha Howard and Asia Todd with 15 points each.