WENDELL For three quarters of play, the Corinth Holders girls basketball team looked very much in control of its opening round contest against visiting Rocky Mount in the 3A state playoffs.
Fortunately for the Pirates, three quarters of solid play and, more importantly, the 17-point cushion it provided entering the final quarter, was just enough to hold off a spirited late rally from the Gryphons as Corinth Holders survived for a 46-43 victory.
In the final seconds and after the Pirates (18-6) missed on the first of a one-an-one trip to the foul line, Rocky Mount rebounded the ball and called timeout. With just over two seconds left in the game, the Gryphons diagramed a last second shot that almost played out to perfection but Shelby Meeks’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer proved to be short and to the right.
The win was the program’s firstNCHSAA playoff victory and the twelfth win in twelve attempts at home this season.
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“They worked hard to get to this place; they worked hard for this moment,” said Corinth Holders Brandy Smith. “The opportunity was here and we’ve been undefeated at home and I told them to protect the opportunity to be able to play another night and they did.
“Even though that fourth quarter went the way that it did and they started coming back, we still were able to hold on and fight and still get the win.”
After a few early-game jitters, the Pirates looked as though they would be able to coast to an easy victory.
Corinth Holders played a zone defense that confounded the Gryphons and the Pirates took advantage of just one Rocky Mount field goal in the second quarter, a Meeks three-pointer, to take control of the game.
Corinth Holders closed the second quarter on a 10-0 run to build a 13-point lead at the break.
The Pirates stretched that lead to 17 by the end of the third quarter with solid defense continuing to lead to opportunistic offense.
“Defensively, I think it was our pressure during the first three quarters that pushed us ahead and allowed for some easy offense for us,” Smith said. “We were getting our stops playing half-court defense and that allowed us to get out ahead in transition and get those opportunities.”
Tajah Clark created many of those opportunities for the hosts as the senior point guard turned in one of her best performances of her career when her team absolutely had to have it.
Clark finished with 14 points, eight steals, six rebounds and five assists.
Tamara Harper, saddled with foul trouble for much of the night, led the late charge for Rocky Mount (10-10) with all eight of her points coming in the final period. Harper’s lay-up with two minutes to play drew the Gryphons to within three points for the first time since the 6:25 mark of the second quarter.
Over a minute later and the spread still just three points, Keyanna Spivey’s fourth blocked shot of the game looked as though it would set up Rocky Mount with another transition opportunity. However, Khadijah Neal collected the loose ball and connected on a runner in the lane to extend the lead back to five points.
Spivey’s offensive put-back on the other end cut the Pirates’ lead to 46-43, providing the setting for the last second drama. In all, the Gryphons outscored Corinth Holders 18-4 in the fourth quarter.
Spivey ended with 13 points and 11 rebounds while Chekelvia Yarrell came off the bench with 10.
Neal finished the contest with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Pirates and fellow senior Holly Price went for 11 points.