On what was otherwise a cold shooting night, Ayden-Grifton rallied late at Clinton, looking to pull off another upset win in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A boys basketball playoffs, but the Dark Horses held on to win 62-55.
“We had a horrible shooting night,” said Ayden-Grifton coach John Moye. “We have not shot the ball like this all season long, haven’t missed layups like this all season long. We struggled a little bit getting offensively going. But I’m still proud of them. I’m so proud of them. They have fought all season long.”
A trio of seniors led the scoring for the Chargers (16-13). Tyree Wiggins had 15 points, Diggy Whichard had 14 and Brandon Hardy had 13.
The Chargers had trouble finding consistent answers for leading Clinton (27-2) scorers Jeremiah Pope, with 23 points, and Dewan Lesane, with 21.
“We tried to go box-and-one on (Pope),” Moye said. “Tried to limit his shot. And (Lesane), we tried to box him out and rebound. We weren’t aggressive enough to start off. We got aggressive in the fourth quarter, but it was a little too late.”
Both teams were cold from the field early, as Clinton led 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Dark Horses progressively began to find their shooting touch across the remaining quarters, eventually building to a 49-32 lead when Lesane dunked, drew a foul and made the free throw with 4:36 remaining.
But the Chargers began to find success attacking the basket and began to get defensive stops as they went on a 16-5 run, with an old-fashioned three-point play from Whichard cutting the lead to 52-48 with 1:32 remaining in the fourth.
“That was one of the things we talked about in practice yesterday: Attack the basket,” Moye said. “We came out the first three quarters and didn’t do it. The fourth quarter, we did it, but it was a little late.”
A 6-0 Clinton run pushed the lead back to 10, but Hardy scored, stole the inbounds pass and scored again to cut it to six with :36.9 left.
But Lesane was able to close the game out by going 4-for-4 at the free throw line.
“An amazing run. A run any coach would love to have,” Moye said. “Hate to see it go, especially knowing we’ve got 10 seniors on our team. Unfortunately, it’s the end of the road, but it doesn’t take anything away from them.”