Green Hope’s spirited student section turned out dressed in beach attire, but looking ahead to spring break remains on hold.
The Falcons’ longest boys basketball season in school history is still running.
Green Hope squeezed past Cardinals Gibbons 71-67 in overtime in an N.C. High School Athletics Association 4A third-round game Saturday night at home.
The ninth-seeded Falcons (25-5) won their eighth straight game to advance to a regional final for the first time in only the school’s second third-round appearance.
Green Hope plays on Tuesday at No. 2-seeded South Central (26-1) of Winterville.
“This is the first time we’ve been past the third round for the first time, but we’re trying to keep the momentum going,” said senior guard Will Harkins. “We’re not satisfied with just the fourth round. We want to keep playing.”
Harkins led the Falcons with 20 points and was joined in double figures by Ryan Shaffer with 19 and Alex Clinkscales with 13.
Cardinal Gibbons’ Michael Walsh hit four 3-point field goals – all in the second half – to finish with 20 points. Kevin Edwards and Michael Brannon added 10 each, but Brannon suffered an ankle injury with 1:14 to play in the third quarter. He didn’t return and left the gym on crutches.
Although Harkins led the Falcons in scoring, his poised play in a game with multiple second-half momentum shifts was the difference. It allowed the Falcons survive Gibbons’ second-half comeback bid.
It was a high energy game with crowd noise contributing to players making mistakes or playing to the crowd.
But Harkins’ eyes remained on the court.
He’s constantly directing teammates into position, including once between two crucial free throws. With 43 seconds to play in the fourth quarter and Green Hope trailing 60-56, he made one free, directed two teammates to defensive positions and then made the second free.
After a Gibbons turnover, Harkins hit a spinning layup down the middle of the lane. The reverse shot kissed off the glass and slowly rolled on the rim before it fell in for a 60-60 tie with 13 seconds to play and force OT.
“Will is our glue-guy,” Green Hope coach John Green said. “Will is so smart and does so many things for us on offense and defense. He made one mistake going down the stretch, but I think that was from playing six games (three in the SWAC tournament, three in the regionals) that have been all difficult.”
That mistake was in overtime with Green Hope leading 68-63.
Following a Gibbons turnover, he should have pulled the ball out but forced a fast-break pass that resulted in a turnover. Nevertheless, Green Hope survived as he scored five of the Falcons’ 11 OT points on five-of-six free throws.
Green Hope’s selfless play included a Shaffer quickly changing his shorts without missing playing time in the fourth quarter. Play was stopped when a referee spotted blood on his shorts.
But since the blood wasn’t his, he ran off the court into a hallway followed by Jailyn Corprew, a JV player on the varsity bench for the playoffs. Out of view, they swapped shorts.
“We’ve been playing together since we were young, so it’s all about chemistry,” Harkins said. “We don’t care who scores as long as we win and we’re happy.”