Steven Adams and Jordan Neal shouldered the offensive load early on for Corinth Holders before the Pirates turned to their defense late Thursday night to earn a shot at defending state 3A champion Terry Sanford.
Adams scored a team-high 24 points and Neal added 18 for Corinth Holders, who built a big first-half lead before holding on late for a 70-56 victory over visiting Jacksonville in a N.C. High School Athletic Association boys basketball second round playoff game.
It was the ninth straight victory for seventh-seeded Corinth Holders (19-8), who will visit second-seeded Terry Sanford (26-1) on Saturday in a third-round contest. The Bulldogs defeated Northern Guilford, 86-41, on Thursday.
“I didn’t see this, not the way our season was going,” said Adams, talking about the team’s 10-8 start. “It was good for us to mature, because we knew from the get-go that we could do this. We believe in the coaches’ system and now we’re here and ready.”
Corinth Holders led by as many as 15 points early in the second quarter before its offense went dry for the better part of the middle two quarters, enabling the Cardinals to draw within 41-36 when Bobby Grubbs hit one of two free throws with 3 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Pirates’ lead would stay between 5-9 points until the final few minutes. After Taviar Cooley hit a pair of free throws for Jacksonville to cut Corinth Holders’ lead to 57-52 with 3:00 to go, Corinth Holders scored the next nine points – including a pair of baskets by Adams – to go up 66-52 with just over a minute remaining.
Jacksonville was held to two baskets over the final 5½ minutes.
“We played really well in the fourth quarter,” Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis said. “They have guys that can flat out shoot it, and there were times we weren’t closing well, where we have to do better running off screens.
“But at the end, we decided we were going to get those rebounds.”
Corinth Holders was without starting wing Brian Frazier, who suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 58-34 victory over Burlington Williams.
Adams and Neal more than made up for his absence, especially in the early going with some sharp-shooting that staked Corinth Holders to a big lead.
Neal hit three three-pointers in the opening quarter, while Adams was even better with 14 points in the frame, including a stretch of 12 straight points that included a pair of three-pointers as Corinth Holders put up 27 points in the quarter for a 12-point lead.
“I didn’t want to come out and be selfish, but my teammates got me the ball and they told me, if you can score, score,” Adams said. “I just kept going with the motor.”
Added Neal: “I was feeling it. I knew we had to step up from the get-go, because their team is very good.”
Neal’s two free throws early in the second quarter gave Corinth Holders its biggest lead, 30-15. Corinth Holders was 9-for-16 from the free-throw line in the second quarter to take a 41-30 lead into halftime.
Offense was hard to come by in the second half, but the Pirates’ defense stiffened when needed down the stretch.
Good defense will be a necessity against Terry Sanford on Saturday.
“We need to stay focused on the defensive end the entire game, we have to be 100 percent on possessions on the defensive end of the floor,” Davis said. “We know as you go further (in the playoffs), the teams are better offensively.”