This time, a team of Triangle with the Spartans mascot eliminated Asheboro from the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A boys basketball state tournament’s third round.
The Southern Durham Spartans used a 14-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to turn a four-point lead into a bench-emptying 71-51 victory over Asheboro Saturday night on the Blue Comets’ home court.
Two nights earlier in the second round, fourth-seeded Asheboro was fortunate to get past the 13th-seeded Smithfield-Selma Spartans with a 78-73 overtime victory.
A Saturday down-to-the-wire finish appeared to brewing until No. 5 seed Southern Durham (22-3) began their turning-point 14-0 run.
Junior guard J’Tori Thomas hit two three-point field goals among his eight points in the run and sophomore guard Jomaru Brown picked the pocket of an Ashboro guard at midcourt and raced to the basket for an uncontested dunked that two of his four points in the run.
“We feel like we made a little history for Coach (Kendrick Hall),” said Brown of the Spartans’ fourth-year coach. “We wanted to get to the fourth round.”
Hall inherited a 9-14 program when he took over Southern Durham in the 2012-13 season. His first team finished 9-15, but the Spartans advanced to the NCHSAA third round by his second year. Southern Durham was eliminated in the first round last year, but the Spartans have taken another step this season and advanced the program to Tuesday’s fourth round against top-seeded Eastern Alamance.
Brown started the night quickly with 18 points in the first half – nine each in each of the first and second quarters – and finished with a game-high 28. Antonio Daye Jr. added 15. All eight of Christmas’ points came during that 14-0 flurry.
“My teammates were trying to get me good shots the whole game,” Christmas said. “They inspired me to keep shooting and then I hit some.”
But despite failing to score until the fourth quarter, Christmas had contributed plenty with his defense. He held Asheboro’s high-scoring guard Tazmine Dunn to six points in the first half, although Dunn finished with 18. Dunn had scored 24 against Smithfied-Selma.
“I just stayed in front of the ball,” said Christmas, who drew two offensive fouls. “He wants to drive the ball so I stayed on his tail the whole game. I wanted to get him out of the game. I knew he was their main player.”
Southern Durham was clinging to a 47-43 when the Spartans spread the court to try and get Asheboro out of its 2-1-2 zone defense. Daye found an opening for a layup with 5:26 to play and a 49-43 lead. By the 3:10 mark, Brown finished a fast break with his second dunk of the run for a 61-43 advantage.
“We tried t push the ball consistently, but they did a good job of getting back on defense,” Hall said. “I thought for that three-minute stretch (the 14-0 run) the guys executed. They took the ball to the glass and they spread the floor out and took the shots that were given to them. That was the biggest difference in the game.”