Cardinal Gibbons’ stellar season came to a crashing halt Monday night as shooting woes doomed the Crusaders in a 49-42 loss to Fayetteville’s Westover High in the second round of the NCHSAA 3A boys basketball playoffs.
Normally an excellent shooting team, Gibbons (17-9) managed to make only 15 of 53 field goals, including 4-for-29 from 3-point range.
“They were great shots,” Crusaders coach Jim Ryan said. “We shoot 49 percent on the year, which is a pretty good shooting percentage for high school. They were open looks, and we ran our offense. Against a zone we got looks, against man (we got looks) – they just wouldn’t go. I have absolutely no problem with the effort.”
Despite the shooting woes, Gibbons made it interesting in the final minutes. Trailing 42-27 with 4:04 to play, Logan Bugg drilled a 3-pointer – and ran to the bench for a timeout with a look of “finally” on his face – that started an 11-2 run.
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“We felt momentum coming,” Gibbons senior Justin Reid said. “We had great fans, so we got the momentum going, but just couldn’t pull it out.”
Nick Forbes’ 3 made it 44-38 with 1:03 to play, and after a Wolverine turnover, Gibbons had a chance to get closer. But Joe Fitzgerald missed a 3, and Westover put the game away by making five of six free throws.
“They didn’t roll over,” Ryan said. “It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that (Westover) was far more athletic than we were across the board. We could’ve rolled over, but we didn’t. We just ran out of time. If we had hit one or two other shots, we would’ve been fine.”
That was clearly the story of the game, and the third quarter showed it well. Westover led 23-21 at halftime, but Cardinal Gibbons could only manage a Jake Reid bucket and a Fitzgerald free throw in the quarter. The Crusaders missed 10 of 11 shots from the floor and all 5 3s – as the Wolverines poured in 7 of 10 shots to take a 38-24 lead into the fourth.
“We were feeling very confident,” Reid said. “We had a good game Saturday afternoon, and we got a good practice in after that. Felt confident coming in; our shots just didn’t fall. Couldn’t ask for anything else. We got good looks.”
Senior guard Christian Lathan, a four-year starter, made four 3s in the and scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half to lead the Wolverines (18-8).
“This time of year, all the teams are very good,” Westover coach George Stackhouse said. “(Gibbons is) a very, very disciplined team with good players, and we knew it was going to be tough coming into their home court.
“But I start with our little point guard, Christian Lathan. He kinda carried us early. He’s been here before, so he kinda carried us on his back.”
Try as they might, the Crusaders had no answer. Reid, who recently topped the 1,000-point mark in his career, finished with 17 points in his final game. Forbes added 12.
“We were picked to finish sixth, and we won the conference,” Ryan said. “I told the seniors, ‘It’s my first year as coach, and you can’t ask for more than that.’ They changed the way they played basketball, and they competed in a very difficult conference - and won it outright. I was very, very proud. We won a state tournament game, Justin Reid got 1,000 points the other day, so I’m happy as a clam.”